Oita Prefecture’s self-proclaimed title of “Japan’s best hot springs” is no lie. There are many beautiful and relaxing onsen in Oita including the scenic Yufuin Onsen area.
How to Get There
You can get to Oita by plane from Haneda, Narita, Osaka (Itami), Nagoya, and even Seoul (Incheon) in about 1-2 hours depending on your point of departure.
|Tokyo => Oita||Jetstar||¥6,716 (US$63)||Details|
|Tokyo => Oita||ANA||¥12,076 (US$113)||Details|
|Tokyo => Oita||Solaseed Air||¥16,890 (US$158)||Details|
If you go by train, ride the Shinkansen to Kokura before transferring to the Limited Express Nichirin Seagaia or Limited Express Sonic. From Tokyo it takes about 6.5 hours and costs in the region of 25,000 yen—making the JR Pass a good deal if you can get one.
Many buses around Kyushu can also take you to Oita and Beppu.
Long and detailed version: here.
From the airport, you can take the bus to various parts of Oita. The 2 major hot spring areas are Beppu and Yufuin, and City bus 36 and sightseeing bus can take you from one to the other. The sightseeing bus also takes you to other major tourist attractions.
JR Kyushu’s Nippo Main Line will take you to most of the tourist highlights.
You can also rent a car and road trip around Oita and the rest of Kyushu. One of the best options is Times Car Rental since it’s really cheap (our favorite word!). Or opt for the more eco-friendly bike instead. Oita has tons of scenery ideal for admiring as you pedal around or take a breather.
What to See and What to Do
ONSEN. You can stay at a hot spring inn overnight or drop into a bathhouse. But you’ve definitely got to try one (or two, or more) if you’re going to Japan’s hot spring capital. Though the price tag is higher, mud baths and hot sand baths are a unique experience. And the hot water attractions don’t stop at hot springs. Beppu is known for 8 hells (jigoku). These hot springs are more “look don’t touch”, including Chinoike Jigoku (“blood pond hell”). It’s as red as the name implies. Kannawa has 6 hells and the other 2 are in Shibaseki. It’s touristy, but some are definitely worth the look.
Continuing the nature/outdoors theme, you can hike Mt. Yufu starting from Asaji or Taketa in about 2 hours. Water sports like wakeboarding and rafting, plus activities like cliff jumping and paragliding are geared for the adventurous tourist. If you like something a little more easy-going, Matama Beach where you can see “One of Japan’s Best 100 Sunsets” and Harajiri Falls, called “The Niagara Falls of Japan” might be a better fit.
Some think Buddhism first gained traction in Japan from Oita, which equals great cultural attractions in the modern day. Over 80% of Japan’s stone Buddhas are in Oita. Usuki, which is about as rural as it gets in Japan, is the most famous with tons of Buddhas carved into the cliffs sometime during the 12th century. On the Shinto side, Usa-jingu is the biggest and most well-known shrine.
While in Oita, you’ve also got to enjoy the food. Bordering on the ocean, it naturally has good, fresh fish like pufferfish (fugu). Oita’s Bungo-gyu beef isn’t as famous as other wagyu, but it’s just as mouth-wateringly good. Another local specialty is a citrus called kabosu. A close relative of yuzu, it’s great to drink in juice form!