Beppu is famous for its onsen (hotsprings), which have drawn local Japanese here for nearly a hundred years. Situated between the mountains and the sea, it is characterized by many plumes of hot steam continuously venting into the sky.
The city has eight major geothermal hot spots, also known as the “Eight hells of Beppu”. Visiting all eight is the main tourist attraction, so we boarded the bus for a full tour.
Six of these “hells” (Jigoku) are located within walking distance in the Kannawa district. One of the quintessential experiences in Japan is to visit an onsen. We hired a a cozy private onsen for an hour in one of the many onsen resorts.
Umi Jigoku “sea hell” is a boiling pond of unusual blue water.
In the surrounding gardens are some orange coloured hells and a large, clear water pond with lotus flowers.
Oniishibozu Jigoku “mud bubbles hell” are boiling mud pools with bubbles that look like the shaven heads of monks.
Shiraike Jigoku “white pond hell” is a steaming hot, milky pond surrounded by a nice garden.
Kamado Jigoku “cooking pot hell” are several boiling ponds of different colours, overlooked by a flashy demon statue as a cook.
Oniyama Jigoku “monster mountain hell” is a horrible place where lots of crocodiles are kept in a not so comfortable environment.
Yama Jigoku “mountain hell” is another horrible place with small ponds of steaming vents with a run-down zoo with large animals in small cages. The hippo looked pretty lonely, so we avoided the others.
Further away in the Shibaseki District are the remaining two hells.
Chinoike Jigoku “blood pond hell” is a boiling red-hot pond surrounded by dense greenery.
Tatsumaki Jigoku “fountain geyser hell” is a spout which erupts every 30-40 minutes with a boiling hot geyser. It lasts about 5 minutes until the pressure has been released.
The Beppu hells are definitely “touristy”, but it makes for an interesting visit of one of the more unique places in Kyushu.
Visited 6th and 7th March 2014.