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An onsen for every taste

Okamotoya Ryokan

Boasting more than 100 public baths, the hot springs resort town of Beppu is one of Japan's most famous onsen getaways. While the sheer number of public baths can be overwhelming, here are a few recommendations to make your visit as stress-free and rejuvenating as possible.

Asked to recommend her favorite stylish onsen, Yamada Rumi—proprietor of the Yamada Bessou ryokan and mover-and-shaker in the local arts and culture scene—does not miss a beat before she recommends Okamotoya.

A historic inn dating back to 1877, Okamotoya is located on a hillside in northern Beppu within the Myoban bathing district, which is known for its healing milky sulfuric waters. Upon arrival,descend the inn's fabulously artsy ceramic-tiled staircase to enter its bathing area.

Okamotoya offers indoor and outdoor pools, which both feature exquisitely pale-green shades of celadon.

The inn is available for both overnight stays and higaeri (daytime) bathing. Adjacent to its premises are several yunohana goya, thatched straw huts inside which crystals formed from the chemical reaction between onsen fumes and mineral-rich blue clay are harvested and used as bath salts, as well as ingredients in other health and beauty products.

The inn's onsite restaurant also serves specialties including jigokumushi (hell steam pudding) and jigokuonigiri (hell rice balls), featuring eggs that have been steamed in vapor from the waters of the jigoku onsen (Beppu Hells).

Umi Jigoku

Speaking of the eight Beppu Hells, your visit to the city just won't be complete without stopping by at least one of them. Given their scalding temperatures, these pools are for admiring rather than bathing. Named for their various respective geographical features, they are as follows: Umijigoku (Sea Hell), Oniishibozu Jigoku (Shaven Head Monk Hell), Shiraike Jigoku (White Pond Hell), Kamado Jigoku (Cooking Pot Hell), Oniyama Jigoku (Monster Mountain Hell), Chinoike Jigoku (Blood Pond Hell), and Tatsumaki Jigoku (Spout Hell).

Often said to be the most picturesque among all of the hells is Umijigoku (Sea Hell). Created by an explosion at the nearby Mount Tsurumi, the clouds of steam pouring out from its turquoise-hued pools do indeed resemble ocean waters.

Beppu Beach Sand Bath

Going along with the ocean theme, consider experiencing another angle altogether to your bathing adventures with a visit to the Beppu Beach Sand Bath.

After changing into a yukata (summer kimono) inside a locker room, you will be buried up to your neck in warm sand that permeates your pores, allowing you to experience deep relaxation before returning inside to shower off and then bathe at your leisure.

The experience of sand bathing can help promote healing from such ailments as joint pain and digestive issues, besides simply leaving you with a feeling of overall nourishment and wellness.

Note: Due to construction, access to Beppu Beach Sand Bath will be temporarily suspended starting March 31, 2023.

Ichinoide Kaikan

Enjoy sweeping views of Beppu Bay from the exquisitely-hued cobalt blue pools of this cozy establishment, which features two bathing areas—the aptly named Scenic Bath and Golden Bath—that are designated for men and women bathers on an alternating basis.

Following your leisurely soak, enjoy lunch at the onsite restaurant, which serves shokado bento (various small dishes artfully presented inside a black lacquered box) between May and August, and dangojiru (an Oita Prefecture specialty of dumpling soup loaded with vegetables) between September and April.

Kimberly Hughes

Kimberly Hughes

Kimberly Hughes is a freelance writer, translator, and community organizer who is originally from the desert of the southwestern U.S. and has been based in Tokyo since 2001. She is somewhat addicted to global travel, and also loves cooking, gardening and reading.

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