A train from Fukuoka takes you to both Yufuin and Beppu in the east. I decided to stay one night in each to try out the different onsens they have to offer.
Yufuin was a clear winner and my favourite. I stayed at Yufuin Rikka which was newly opened 2 years ago and it was an amazing Ryokan. I had a private onsen to myself and my room was just amazing.
Like most Ryokans, they include a dinner a breakfast and the food was good! I loved every minute of my stay and it’s only a short 10 minutes walk from the Yufuin station. I didn’t have to walk with luggage as they also provided pick up and drop off service from the airport in Oita or the yufuin train station, which is lovely.
Yufuin is a wonderful small town with many things to do. I think I saw the most beautiful riverbed with canola flowers and Sakura with the view of Mount Yufu here. There are also a few shrines along the way where you can admire. I walked from my ryokan to Lake Kinrin and stopped by the shrines along the way.
There is a rather crowded pedestrian street which is full of shops selling food and cute souvenirs. I love the Studio Ghibli shop and also the Yufuin floral village which has a cat and owl ‘petting zoo’. Yufuin was also famous for their cheese and I tried 4 different cheese products and decided the soft melty cheese cake in a cup was my favourite. I possibly ate the whole street here as I also had Yakitori, egg tart and a croquette which was very delicious, apparently the best in the street.
If you don’t fancy walking, you can also take a horse carriage or the rickshaw pulled by strong Japanese men 😂
My favorite place in Yufuin besides my room, was the amazing 1000 year old cedar tree at the Ogosha. It was an uphill hike and it also has a bamboo forest that is tranquil and beautiful. The tree was the main highlight. Apparently a fire was set in the cavity a few years ago and everyone thought three died, but it didn’t and it looked big, strong and with green leaves when I was there to see it.
If you have more time, you could also hike Mount Yufu which is amazing on a warmer day. The hotel staff told me it takes 5 hours to go up and down so I didn’t get enough time as I needed to head to Beppu in the afternoon.
Beppu was an hour away by train and it’s famous for having the most onsens in one place. It also famous for its sand baths. Yes, you bury yourself in hot sand and it’s said to help your joints and very good for your body!
The moment I arrived at Beppu, outside the station, there is a huge rugby statue. If you love rugby, rugby is making its world tour to Beppu, Japan for the first time! There is also a onsen for your hands. The water is hot so it was very nice to soak my cold hands for a while before I walked to my ryokan.
After I checked in, I waked to Takegawara, one of the oldest and most popular onsens in Beppu and they offer the sand bath and the normal baths. I tried the sand bath of course! At 1030 yen, they provide you with a yukata and a small towel and you wait for your number to be called so you can head into the locker rooms to change and then viola, you’re in your yukata lying on the sand. It’s nice and warm in here but I think the beach would be a wonderful experience for the sand bath if it was warmer weather.
A lady buries you under the sand in a few seconds and I can’t help but laugh as it was such an interesting experience. Do remember to pass her your phone so she can help you take photos, this means do not put the phone in your locker! The experience only lasts for 15 minutes but I was already sweating in my first 5 minutes and I felt so light and refreshed after being buried. After the sand bath, you soak yourself into the hot onsen after rinsing off and you can stay as long as you want. It was real fun and I slept very well that night too.
Takegawara Onsen is just 10 minutes walk from Beppu Station so if you just want a day trip from Fukuoka or nearby cities to experience the sand bath and onsen, it’s possible too!
I had a delicious dinner at my ryokan called Kappo Sekiya. The ryokan was rather old but well maintained and the staff are very nice and the food was great value!
The next morning, after my very heavy breakfast of rice and fish, I headed to the main attraction in Beppu.
I walked to the bus stop on the side of Tokiwa Beppu, to catch bus 24 to the Hells of Beppu! They’re called hells because the onsens are so hot you cannot bathe in them and some of them the colours look like you’re in hell!
Do get the combination ticket for 2000 yen as there are 7 hells to visit and each one is 400 so you save some money. The first 5 are clustered together and after you explore the first 5, you can either walk 3kms to the next 2 or take the bus, which I did, from the visitor centre.
My favourite hells are the ones where you can soak your feet and steam your face. And the red one looks particularly interesting. I got the cream too for bites and eczema as the cream is supposed to cure everything.
After the tour of the geyser, the last hell, I walked down to the JR station to catch the train back to Beppu staton to get my bag and head to Kumamoto. Read more about Kumamoto in my next blog.
Eat, sleep, explore, repeat
Stella goes west