Japan is made up of about 3,000 islands, which form an elongated chain off the eastern coast of Asia. Streams and waterfalls tumble down the steep slopes in this spectacular landscape. Last summer, my husband and I were fortunate enough to visit a region in Kyushu within the Oita Prefecture called the Nine Hells of Beppu. Upon arrival we applied for a tourist pass so we can avail of free bus rides and entrance to its famous attractions. A trip to Beppu is worth it not just because of the hot springs but also the experience of a little Japanese culture outside the mainstream.
When we got there we were thrilled at the beauty and stillness of the surroundings at the Beppu Park. A park that is ideal for a walk and a date is also widely visited because of its beautiful tradition. It was a refreshing sight as we were welcomed with the colorful double cherry blossoms lining the center island on the way to this park. We came at the right time (April) when its famous national flower the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. The blossoming Sakura plant and white chrysanthemums were everywhere along with its towering century old bamboo trees. We strolled along its huge green lawns as we smell the aroma of the sweet scented flowers surrounding the park. It was good to stop by this enchanting place and walk around it on our own leisurely pace. I felt calm as I watch the small man made waterfall and pond. In one corner stands a memorial for Kumahachi Aburaya, the founder of Beppu tourism. We even climbed the 125 meter high Global Tower and admire the view of Beppu from its observation deck. We ended the day with a meal of authentic Tendon (tempura mix and rice) at the Jigokomushikobo Kannawa Restaurant outside the park. It was really delicious!
We admire the scenes of streams rising from the hot springs at The Nine Hells of Beppu. The waters are heated deep inside the volcanic rocks below. I was impressed by the various other geysers and hot springs with red as the color of hell for each. Each spot has something interesting to tell. The hot springs of various colors were stunning! The Oniyama Hell was adored by kids because of the crocodiles, while the steam rising Mokumoku Hell is fun even when viewed from the rear. It was interesting to see a mix of white, blue, and red steams rising from the works of nature. The feeding of the crocodiles is reminiscent of hell actually; I saw how one crocodile swallows a whole large chicken on its wide open mouth. The Sea Hell was equally interesting with the presence of the tropical fishes. More than half of the hells were within walking distance and we enjoyed the footbath in several places. We relished the experience of eating a freshly boiled egg after dipping it in the hot spring waters. Personally it was like hell as the geysers squirt to the sky at a certain time. In Tornado Hell it was worth seeing as the water boils up and shoots upward once every twenty minutes. The Red Pool Hell was also one of the most spectacular and most photographed around the area. The visit of the hells gives an interesting insight into the Japanese culture. Most of the pilgrims come here to keep their legs on the special pools or just inhale the steam. After so much the steam the nose is guaranteed to be free.
After a power breakfast from our hotel we head out early to join a hiking trail of the Mt. Tsurumi. It was a good morning exercise as we trek the mountain side and take a ten minute cable ride from the train station as its jump off point. The 360 degree view was awesome as well as the cold breeze from the Beppu Bay. As the good weather permits we enjoyed the spectacular views from the summit. As well as the presence of cable cars to get to the top, I was surprised to see a huge thermometer in the middle. The locals say it is there so we can appreciate the difference in temperature from the ground below. We took time to visit and take pictures beside the statues of The Seven Lucky Gods at the summit.
My husband and I enjoyed some romantic and private time to enjoy the private hot springs at the Ichinoide Kaikan. It is a hot spring area that is divided into two sections. We were greeted with a warm smile and hello once we got inside the building. They spoke good English as they told me I can avail of the “hot springs +meal” package. We perspired a lot because we chose a dumpling set soup meal while we bathe in the warm spring waters. Still we enjoyed the experience of a little privacy as compared to the crowded springs at the hells. We bathe at the hot water landscape with an amazing view of the region. The only downside of the place was that here was no shower or washing place after we bath. After here we enjoyed a stroll in the park and a roller coaster ride at the wooden coasters of the Kijima Kogen Park. We also had a fun time watching kids race on their rented go-karts at the Kids Driving School. They were even handed out a kid’s driver’s license after their game. We particularly enjoyed The Birdman, where we got harnessed and trail individually on the roller coaster rails. What a thrilling ride!
The next day was a great time to marvel at the sights from the magnificent Beppu Tower. It is a testimony from the optimism after the Second World War. Along the street we bought our tickets at the vending machine, and then we took the elevator to the 17th floor where we were warmly received. Although the glass panes were not all in top condition, still the view from the top is impressive. On the one hand we enjoy the beautiful view of the city of Beppu and the Kokura Highway, and on the other side was a great view from the sea. This is a great way to have an overview of the city and understand its history. We toured inside the attraction and saw pictures of how it was constructed and how it looked from the early days of the tower. Towards the end of the day we get to take nice photographs and an amazing sunset while we enjoy a nice cold beer in hand.
Our last day in Japan was spent admiring the wonders of nature at the Shidakako Lake. Located behind the Beppu Park, we took a short hike and see the visible peaks of Kuju Mountain Ranges, Mt. Tsurumi, and Yufugawa Valley the most distant landscape seen from our vantage point. We also ride a rented boat and tread the quiet waters of this lake. As we trod way past a very beautiful iris garden we reached the Kagurame Lake. There were irises of various types on its huge lawn. The road and plate marks were visible for each tourist to appreciate the view of the iris from the lake. At night we pitch our tent along the Shidakako Lake and spend a quiet romantic evening with just the sound of the nightingales and the scent of flowers as our company. It is the perfect place for relaxation and recreation surrounded by nature. The lake is complete with a guarded campsite, clean toilets, a cafeteria, ample parking space, and a souvenir shop.
Spending our romantic vacation at the Nine Hells of Beppu, Japan was an experience that will always bring a smile on my lips each time I look back to.