Sponsored by Oita Prefecture/Tourism Oita
Beppu is a quaint, charming and traditional city, filled with local food, unique architecture and of course, their famous, natural onsens. It’s a peaceful beautiful haven by day, but come night, something exciting begins to stir in the atmosphere. Rows of neon lights are switched on and the buzzing night scene begins to take it’s place along the rows of bars, clubs and even foreign pubs.
Beppu is dubbed one of the best places in Japan to experience an onsen, and with the wealth of traditional methods, different styles of bath and perfectly heated waters, you can understand why. Choose from one of the many famous onsens in Beppu and relax amongst the beauty and serenity of Beppu City.
For my first visit, I decided to go to one of the most famous onsens in Oita, Takegawara Onsen. Tourists wait for up to thirty minutes to use their famous sand bath and, after my treatment, it was pretty obvious why. During the wait time, you aren’t permitted to leave the onsen building, however, with free ‘Onsen Oita wi-fi’ available throughout the whole of Beppu, you should be able to find something to occupy yourself, even if it is researching which local Izakaya you’re going to have your dinner at.
When you pay at the counter, you are given a number and are asked to wait until your number is called before entering the sand bath area. You are also asked to read some information in English regarding the use of the onsen area.
When you are called into the sand bath area, you must remove all your clothes, put on a yukata and then walk through into the mixed-gender sand area. A few ladies are standing with shovels, creating one of the most authentic and completely surreal images I’ve witnessed in Japan. The ladies don’t speak much English but, to me, this made the experience seem even more authentic.
You’re first asked to lay down on the hot sand and remain very still while sand is shoveled on top of you, surrounding every inch of your body and tucked into every outline until only your face remains above ground. The sand is heavy and warm, but comfortable, almost as if you’ve been tucked into a heated bed by the world’s best bed-tucker.
You are left to sweat for around 10 minutes, which is more than enough for the levels of sweat I accumulated, before lifting yourself from the sand and going back to the female changing room to shower and sit in the onsen.
I can honestly say that I have never felt smoother in my life. I left the traditional, wooden and extremely photogenic onsen building feeling completely refreshed and cleansed, in just ten minutes. This is most definitely an experience I’ll remember for a long time and I recommend it highly.
I was spoilt for choice when searching for some authentic, local food In Beppu. Everywhere I turned there were izakayas, restaurants, bars and eaterys open late into the night. Upon the most recommended are, Izakaya Koinobori, Robata Jin and Nama Ippon, where you can sample some of the best local cuisine Beppu has to offer.
The smell of Toriten (tempura chicken) is unforgettable and while every country probably has their own version of it, or at least something similar, there is nothing quite like this Beppu variety. Crunchy, steamy and accompanied with their unique recommended sauces, it makes for a new and exciting tasting experience.
If you’re after something a little out of the ordinary, try flatfish, or any number of the delicious fish available in Oita. And, for a firm favourite with almost everyone I know, have a go at a large range of delicious karaage, the deep fried, battered and crispy comfort food that will make you want to stay in Japan forever.
From art to architecture and onsens to statues, Beppu city in the place to be. You would be amazed at what you can find by just wandering around the quaint and numerous alleyways, unique shopping streets and back alleyways, not to mention the coast that is just a small, romantically lit walk away.
Beautiful architecture and booming night life scene aside, Beppu is also scattered with temples, shrines and some rather surprising statutes that have grown to be quite popular with tourists. Yayoi Tengu, located down Yayoi dori, is perhaps the best example of this. With its big, red head and exceedingly long nose, it was built to lift the spirits of the people of Beppu after a devastating fire broke out in Yayoi. It’s presence is said to protect the locals from further grief and now plays a big part in many of the festivals held there.
Despite its rather shocking appearance, the statue somehow manages to be quite difficult to find in and amongst the mass of shopping streets. However, it is definitely worth the trip as it is, without a doubt, one of the most bizarre statues I have ever seen in Japan.