Beppu is a well-known hot springs resort. It has the greatest number of springs, and abundance of water that flows from them, in all of Japan.As I approached the area, the smell of sulfur in the air added to my excitement, knowing that I had finally arrived in Beppu.
From the time I can remember, I had already been taken there on family trips. One thing that still remains as a clear memory is the first time I saw “Jigoku” (“Hell”; intensely hot springs that are sites for viewing, rather than bathing). As a small child, I was a little scared to walk through the steamy “hell.” I also saw some interesting sights that made me want to run, and I kept going back to my mother, again and again.
Hell Tour “Jigoku Meguri”
In the hot springs resort of Beppu, you can see “Hell.” It still sounds a little scary, doesn’t it? But not to worry. Let me tell you about the “Jigoku Meguri” (Hell Tour), where you can visit the “Umi Jigoku” (Sea Hell), “Oniishi Bozu Jigoku” (Demon Stone Monk’s Hell), “Yama Jigoku” (Mountain Hell), “Chi no Ike Jigoku” (Bloody Pond Hell), “Tatsumaki Jigoku” (literally meaning “dragon swirl,” but is known as the Geyser Hell), “Kamado Jigoku” (Fireplace Hell), and “Oniyama Jigoku” (Demon’s Mountain Hell). Let’s just say that each one has its own personality, and is a “hell” to enjoy.
Umi Jigoku is characterized by a beautiful cobalt blue hell. This color is a beautiful hue that I have never before seen in nature.
Oniishi Bozu Jigoku is a mud hell. The name “Oniishi Bozu Jigoku” comes from the fact that it looks like a monk is poking his bald head out of the hot water.
In Yama Jigoku, animals live comfortably in the hell’s warm steam.
There are demons in Kamado Jigoku. I had a photo of myself, taken with a demon when I was three-years-old, and about 20 years later, I took a photo of myself in the same place, which is my memory of this hell.
At Oniyama Jigoku, you can encounter crocodiles. If you are lucky, you can even see them being fed, biting into their food with intensity.
Shiraike Jigoku (White Pond Hell) is a far cry from what I’ve seen so far, and has the atmosphere of a Japanese garden. However, you can see fish from the Amazon living on the premises, utilizing the heat from the hot springs, and it is like taking a trip abroad in one hell.
Chi no Ike Jigoku, as the name suggests, is a bright bloody red hell. This is another place that I still talk about with my mother. When I was a child, I walked around holding her hand, wondering if blood was really oozing.
At Tatsumaki Jigoku, you can see the powerful boiling water periodically spouting up from below. The sound makes you imagine a dragon soaring into the sky.
After seeing and enjoying the Hells, it is highly recommended that you try “jigoku-mushi” (hot-spring-steamed dishes). You might think it is just another hell, but this time, it is a delicious hell. Using the heat from the hot springs, meat, seafood, and vegetables are steamed and cooked at once. The excess fat is removed, and a faint smell of the sulfur remains. “Jigoku-mushi” is a dish that is not to be missed.
Now that your stomachs are full, let’s visit the hot springs.
You can enjoy the hot springs in a variety of ways, including the hot springs inside the hotel; the hot springs where the locals go; steam baths; foot baths; and hand baths. Foot baths and hand baths can be enjoyed with your clothes on, so you can fully enjoy the hot springs until the very last minute. There is also “foot steaming,” which uses the steam from the hot springs. The first time I tried it, it was winter and my feet were so cold, as if they were frozen, but after about 10 minutes of steaming, it warmed not only my feet, but also my entire body. I don’t usually get cold or sweat much, so it was an incredible sensation that warmed me from the core.
Let’s try the sand baths
I also recommend the sand baths. The sand baths lined up by the beach are especially enjoyable. When you lie down on the beach, the shopkeeper will pour sand over your whole body. The sand is so hot that you can see the steam rising from it, but they are professionals, and will cover you with sand that has reached the perfect temperature. The sand wraps around you so tightly that you cannot move. The sound of the waves will lull you to sleep, as you feel your body slowly warming up. I hope you will have an enjoyable time.
The mad bath is a must for women
There are countless hot springs, and the quality of each is different. There are eight major areas of hot springs in Beppu, and they are called “Beppu Hatto” (eight hot springs). My personal favorite, and one that I can never miss, is Myoban Onsen. This is a sulfur hot spring with a scent that stirs my heart. There is also a hot spring with a mud bath that I recommend.
This hot spring is a must for women. The hot water itself is exactly the same as that of Oniishi Bozu Jigoku, which we visited on our Jigoku Meguri tour. You have to soak your body in the muddy water. The mud sinks under your feet, so you scoop it out, and apply it to your body and face. Afterwards, you will be amazed at how smooth and soft your skin becomes, as if it were not your own.
It’s also a good idea to go around visiting many hot springs resorts to find your favorite, and it’s also fun to spend time chatting with the locals. Everyone’s skin is surprisingly smooth. The effect of the hot springs is amazing, isn’t it?
My dream for myself in old age is to partake in a hot springs cure in Beppu. Staying in a quiet inn, eating “jigoku mushi,” and choosing the quality of hot springs to soak in, according to my mood that day. It sounds like a dream come true. But it’s a dream I’ve had for more than 20 years, so I’m sure it will come true.
For me, Beppu is the best place to relax, free my mind, and rest my body, unlike the flow of time in my daily life. Why don’t you try finding your favorite hot springs, among the many that are not listed in the guidebooks?