Welcome to Kyushu, Japan's third-largest island, where a tranquil haven of onsens (hot springs) and traditional ryokans awaits. Kyushu is also home to Japan's most active volcano, Mount Aso.
In Oita Prefecture, one of Kyushu's seven prefectures, you'll find the most spectacular hot springs. Oita boasts the most onsens in Japan (over 4,500), including Beppu and Yufuin, the country's two largest hot springs areas.
Beppu is the most visited city in the prefecture and home to over 2,000 hot springs, including the well-known Seven Hells of Beppu. Each hot spring bubbles and steams continuously, hence its moniker. They range in colour from cobalt blue to blood red, and are for viewing from a distance only, not for bathing. These jigoku (hells) can reach temperatures of about 98 degrees.
Each ‘hell’ is distinctly different. The largest of the seven pools, Umi (Sea) Jigoku, earned its name for its vivid turquoise colour; the oldest hell, Chinoike (Blood Lake) Jigoku is – you guessed it – blood red, a magnificent sight with steam rising from it.
For a relaxing onsen, head for Kamegawa Onsen or Kankaiji Onsen, which are both surrounded by lush scenery. After your bath, don a yukata (bathrobe) and explore the historic streets of Hamawaki Onsen. Visitors can also enjoy a herbal steam bath in Beppu’s Kannawa district. Founded by a Buddhist monk in 1276, locals and visitors have been enjoying the benefits of this steam bath for over 700 years.
A short train ride away, Yufuin is a scenic onsen town with plenty of cultural hotspots (including museums, cafes, and boutiques) to keep you busy. Mount Yufu hovers over the town and provides the perfect backdrop to photos, as does pretty Lake Kinrinko. A short walk away from the main shopping street you’ll be reminded that this area is quite rural, as rice paddies and traditional farmhouses replace the hot springs and spa lodgings.