Stimulate your senses
in the unparalleled onsen of Oita Prefecture
True lovers of onsen will agree that bathing au naturel in a pool of hot spring water gushing up from Mother Earth herself can tap into our most primal emotions. Whether it's the meditative, even sacred, experience of sitting inside a rotemburo (outdoor hot spring pool) while experiencing unfiltered nature (think snowflakes gently falling and melting on your shoulders during deep winter) or the altered states of consciousness that can be triggered after going back and forth between hot and cold pools and a sauna, the untamed pleasure and healing benefits of onsen bathing make this truly an experience like few others.
Oita Prefecture is one of Japan's premier regions to experience this natural phenomenon, being home to the largest number of onsen – and the highest annual yield of hot spring water – in the entire country.
Travel to each nook and cranny of Oita Prefecture to fully explore and indulge in this incredible resource. Simply choose from among the numerous onsen scattered throughout the prefecture and then prepare for magic to ensue. Here are a few suggestions to help get you started on your Oita prefectural onsen journey.
The obvious place to begin your bathing journey is the city whose name is practically synonymous with onsen itself: Beppu. Boasting more than 100 public baths – and enough hot spring water bubbling up from 2,700 different sources to fill a total of 1,800 Olympic-sized swimming pools daily – Beppu was designated by the government in 1950 as an International Tourism Hot-Spring Cultural City.
The city is blessed with eight separate major hot springs – Hamawaki, Beppu, Kankaiji, Horita, Myoban, Kannawa, Shibaseki and Kamegawa – whose rich mineral content consisting of acid, sulfur, salt, iron and alum provides an array of health benefits that go beyond the mere pleasure of soaking. Click for a full run-down of recommendations.
Around a 35-minute southwesterly drive from Beppu is lovely Yufuin, another famed onsen resort town that is framed by the gorgeous dramatic backdrop of Mount Yufu.
The hills around town are dotted with many an atmospheric ryokan, as well as additional attractions such as shops and museums. Consider a stay at exceedingly stylish luxury inn Sanso Murata, which features 12 guest houses in addition to its main building, or simply enjoy the atmosphere by visiting its bar, café or art gallery.
Back in town below the hills, follow your onsen soak with a long stroll along Yunotsubo Kaido Shopping Street. Spanning the area between Yufuin Station and Lake Kinrin, this road offers opportunities to sample and shop for an array of local products including shoyu-flavored ice cream, soba noodles, and kabosu citrus soaps, among many other offerings.
Continuing to the southwest for another 20-minute drive is the tranquil town of Kokonoe. Visit-worthy onsen options include Fukumoto-ya, an inn dating back to the Edo period that offers bathing in several pools amidst a stunning outdoor riverside setting. Above-and-beyond touches include an artfully handcrafted stone bath, and a wooden board that the proprietor provides for you to prop your drinks atop as you sip and soak.
About an hour's drive further to the southeast, located due south of Yufuin, is the city of Taketa, whose Nagayu onsen waters are famed for their carbonated bubbles. Experience this unusual phenomenon at Lamune onsen, which takes its name from the popular fizzy drink that its pools resemble. A soak here is said to bring health benefits that can address conditions including heart disease, gastrointestinal disorders and arthritis.