Beppu is a wonderful hot springs resort on the island of Kyushu that is also one of the most visited spots on the island. The town made a name for itself thanks to its ‘hells’, of which there are eight, and which are hot springs that each offer you something different if you want to check out these amazing natural phenomena.
As well as the hot springs, which are the main attraction, you can also spend time luxuriating in traditional bath houses here called onsen, or you can also hike into the surrounding area as Beppu is encircled by mountains while also lining the coast. This means that you can also go to the beach here when you visit, making Beppu an all round travel destination that has a lot going for it.
Here are the 15 best things to do in Beppu…
1. Steam your own food
Many people won’t realize that the hells in Beppu actually have a range of functions.
One of them, which has existed for centuries, is cooking, as the warm waters offer you the perfect opportunity to steam some of your own food.
One of the best places to give this a try is at Jigoku Mushi Kobo and you can buy your own ingredients here and then steam them using kama which are Japanese vats that are heated by the onsen waters underneath them.
For a quirky meal in Japan, this experience is really hard to beat!
2. Tour the Hell Circuit
The main reason to come to Beppu is to tour the Hell Circuit which is also known as Jigoku Menguri in Japanese.
One of the main highlights of the circuit is that you can visit the eight hell areas which all have different themes and are known for their encircling attractions such as small theme parts and cultural villages.
There are some six hell sites in Kannawa and another two located a little further away from the center of Beppu, but you can buy a combination entry ticket which allows you to visit all of them in a day, although you will not be able to spend much time at each of them if you try to do the whole circuit all at once.
3. Take pictures at Chi-no-ike Jigoku
There are many different hell sites and smaller hells in Beppu, so it can be a little difficult to know which ones you absolutely shouldn’t miss.
One of these however is Chi-no-ike Jigoku which is one of the smaller hells in Beppu but which is known for its peerless bright red hue.
As you would expect, this makes the water look like blood and it makes a great spot to take some amazing photographs of one of the more unusual hells in Beppu.
4. Try a sand bath
Beppu is known for its quirky attractions and one of these is the sand baths that you can try all over town.
One of the best places to have a sand bath however is at Shoningahama Beach which is a place on the coast where the sand is heated by the spring waters which bubble beneath the surface.
People flock here to be buried up to their necks in the sand, and this is said to have thermal properties which make the body more relaxed and soothe aches and pains.
5. Check out Tatsumaki Jigoku
Tatsumaki Jogku is one of the more impressive hells which means that you definitely shouldn’t give it a miss on the Hell Circuit.
The reason for its fame is that it has a geyser which erupts rather dramatically around every half an hour.
With that in mind, you may have to wait a little while for the natural water show to start but it is well worth it so be patient.
6. Stroll around Beppu Park
Beppu Park is located in the center of the city and is known for being reminiscent in style of parks in Tokyo and Kyoto.
This is a nice strip of greenery in the city, and if you happen to be here in the spring time then you can walk around and check out the fluffy pink cherry blossom trees in full bloom.
The park is also a riot of color in the fall season when you can check out the burnt copper autumn leaves.
7. Watch the show at Hit Parade
If you are looking for something to do in Beppu in the evening then think about visiting Hit Parade which is something of an unexpected experience in the city.
This venue is modeled on a 1950s American old school dance hall and there is a live band that plays nightly and performs all the classic songs from the period.
Dancing is encouraged and the whole place has a party atmosphere which will make you feel as if you have stepped back in time.
8. Bathe in the onsen
As well as its famous hells, Beppu is also known as an onsen town which features traditional Japanese bath houses.
Many people choose to visit these to wash the sand off after a sand bath, and one of the most famous is Takegawara Onsen which offers both the sand and the onsen experience at the same venue.
Note however that the water here is very hot but that it is also said to be good for curing all manner of aches and pains.
9. Shop at Oita Made Shop
If you want to stock up on handicrafts from the wider Oita Prefecture of which Beppu is a part then make sure you head to the Oita Made Shop.
Here you will find a huge range of local products which include food, alcohol and handicrafts and the good thing about this shop is that it also has galleries that tell you the history and origins of the pieces on sale.
With that in mind, this is a great place to pick up some souvenirs and also support the local community at the same time.
10. Check out Tanabata Matsuri
If you are in Beppu and want to check out a local festival then you can head over to neighboring Oita city for Tanabata Matsuri.
This festival is held in August and lasts for three days, culminating on the final Friday of the month, so make sure to time your visit accordingly.
The festival is an ode to two star crossed lovers, and you can see gorgeous streamers which are affixed to bamboo poles in order to celebrate the occasion.
11. Enjoy the mud at Oniishibozu Jigoku
Oniishibozu Jigoku is one of the hells that make up the closer Kannawa group and is also sometimes named the ‘Monk’s Shaved Head Hell’. The reason for this, and also the reason to come here, is that this hell is covered in mud rather than filled with water.
This means that the mud bubbles away (and looks like the bald head of a monk) making this a unique hell which is great for photo opportunities.
12. Sample the pastries
Beppu, perhaps surprisingly, is known not only for its noodles and sushi but also for its delicious pastries.
These are sold at Tomonaga Panya which first opened its doors in 1916 and is known for its delicious breads and other sweet treats.
The signature delicacy here is the ‘Doggie Bun’ which is called a wanchan in Japanese and is made up of a bun filled with toothsome custard and decorated with raisins.
13. Travel on the Kintetsu Beppu Ropeway
The Kintestsu Beppu Ropeway is one of the best places to come on a clear day and will take you to the summit of Mount Tsurumi.
From here you can stand and look out over the rest of Beppu and even see as far as neighboring Beppu Bay.
From the ropeway station you can also hike up the mountain and check out a range of small temples and colorful shrines that dot the landscape.
14. Take part in the Onsen Festival
Beppu is obviously a town that is dedicated to its onsens, and with that in mind it even has a special Onsen Festival in order to celebrate them properly.
The festival is held over the course of the first Saturday and Sunday every April and it is well worth a visit if you are in town at this time.
The festival is known for its dance performances, drinking parties and other celebrations that are an ode to the famous onsen in this town.
15. Shop at Beppu Traditional Bamboo Crafts Center
The countryside around Beppu is known for its bamboo cultivation so it stands to reason that there are a huge number of local handicrafts that use this plant.
When you visit the Beppu Traditional Bamboo Crafts Center you will be able to see some galleries which are dedicated to showcasing pieces of bamboo art from the Edo Period and you can see how people would have made these kinds of pieces in the days of old.
You can also see more recent works and you can even get hands on and learn how to fashion a piece of bamboo to make your own work of art.