Beppu: To Hell(s) and Back

Another Japanese National Holiday – Coming of Age Day – so that can mean only one thing! A chance to travel, and try something new, with my usual partner in crime – Lachalu Buusu!

Saturday – In which we Learn the Value of Toes

Arriving at Oita station, I greeted Buusu with the sounds of her own people; Teddypicker by Arctic Monkeys and we were off to do gaijin shopping in Oita mall, Park Place. After a couple hours of shopping, and swooning over puppies we were in Beppu, on a desperate hunt for something unique, exciting and Japanese – sand baths.

Pulling up along to the beach and spotting such a spot, we quickly stripped down to our birthday suits and threw on yukatas, enabling us to hide our shames as we walked along the beach front and onto the hot sand beds.

In no time at we were being buried alive under several inches of warm, moist sand and not long after that, I was left blinded by the sweat that had scaled the fortresses that are my eyebrows, and invaded my eyes, much to the entertainment of Buusu!

Fresh from the pits of hell, sand needed removing from certain crevices!

As we walked around the beach, it was clearly kite weather as a swarm of youngsters took to desperately throwing up limp and aerodynamically unsound looking kites into trees the air. The occasionally box-kite soaring effortlessly above the mess of suicidal kites.

By now the day was growing weary and handing the mantle onto night, as we made our hunt around Beppu on a quest for a snack bar in which to consume and sing karaoke.

Life is about opening doors, and I lost count of how many snack bars we ventured towards that turned out to be shut, had nobody in them, or said “er… no English”, alas we persevered, and found a snack bar, willing to serve us, with a delightful poster of what was probably a transsexual on the door.

Whilst being empty, the bar was delightfully what I had hoped for, with soft furnishings and trims, and utilising our passable Japanese we even figured out the controls for the karaoke system. Over time, our singing began to pull in a crowd, but unfortunately our hour was coming to a close. The woman behind the bar I had to come realise was a man, this didn’t surprise me, what wrong footed me more was that the young, attractive, half nude woman photo hanging on the wall, would transpire to me the old gentleman next to me, who also happened to run the bar – a baggy jumper can hide all sorts of things it seems!

Sufficiently inebriated to think our luck was in, we headed haphazardly to the Hit Parade, the 1950s themed performance restaurant on every visitor’s list. On top of the all you can eat “Viking” banquet of hot dots, baguette and wedges, surpassing the all you can drink nomihoudai, were the 20 minute performances of the best of rock’n’roll songs of the 50s, with the entire room on their feet dancing along.

Are you jive, turkey?

Needless to say, with a lethal concoction of hotdog, whiskey and vigorous jiving, I was unable to remain dancing for the entirety of a single set, and felt very off colour whilst those around more meagrely jingled to the music.

A nice dancing and singing lady

Once over, we returned to the streets, on the hunt for the best Saturday night action Beppu had to offer.

Within the hour we had returned to the car, and gone to sleep.

Sunday – Mud, mud, MUD!

Turns out that winter’s pretty cold in Japan, especially in the morning.

Awaking to Buusu’s meek cry of,
“Is it bright outside yet?”

Let me know that she to had succumb to placing her coat over her heard in the vain hope of recycling her own warmth – it didn’t really work.

Walking on frozen, cramped feet, I had never been so grateful to see a Starbucks!

So we were off to Hoyoland, arguable the best mud onsen in Japan – and most importantly for our boy/girl duo – unsegrated.

Hoyoland, set in the rolling hills on the outskirts of Beppu, is a cute little place that hasn’t seen much of an update since at least the 90s. Reasonable rates and lockers for valuables, lead to a small meandering path down to the changing building, a number of indoor pools and out into the mixed onsen zone with several mud onsens.

The main pool provides access for females fully hidden from the site of males, with a covered walkway and hidden corner into which to get into the water. Across the middle if the main onsen is a bamboo barrier, that seperates the two sides, though it would seem perfectly acceptable for woman (at least gaijin women) to pass across freely.

For the more adventurous, there is a smaller onsen pool, a foot deep with mud behind the main onsen pool – adventurous as the only means to get into it for female bathers is around the outside of the pool, pass the mens’ section – though well worth it for the opulence the mud provides.

Now feeling totally mellow man, we floated effortly in the car to the legendary Beppu ropeway, offering unparalleled views of the entire Beppu bay area.

Arriving to only be battled and barged by ravenous winds, near ripping off the doors from the cars, throwing dirt into our eyes like tiny bullets, and causing the ropeway to visibly bounce by several feet – it was most definitely closed!

Having thoroughly defrosted our bodies, a feast of pizza and pasta warmed our bellies, and we head to the legendary MONKEY MOUNTAIN.

Objectively speaking, it was little more than a hill, though very pretty, with some nice stairs and playground for the monkeys, and HUNDREDs of monkeys, though naturally the school of baby monkeys took most of the attention!

Strolling across to the aquarium, the “what we could read to admission fee ratio” was too great, and so we didn’t venture any further him.

This didn’t dampen our afternoon as we headed up to Suginoi Hotel complex for an afternoon of entertainments.

Set atop the rolling hills of Beppu, it looks North up along the coast of Beppu, and overs a delightful rooftop onsen experience. But that was not for today, as instead we chose to visit the bowling alley!

Unsurprisingly, the finger holes in the balls, not cut for gaijin fingers, proved particularly painful, and what started off as a raging torrent of strikes and spares soon died down to a distinctly average performance. This was followed by some taiko drumming and a smidge of ice hockey.

Getting lost in the hotel was like being trapped in an inception-style nightmare, in which the whole places morphs seamlessly into itself, in a never ending tunnel of doors and striped carpets.

After nearly losing our toes the previous night, the executive decision was made to spend the night in a Beppu hostel, offering much needed warmth to our toes!

Monday – To Hell(s) and back

Japan and its love of national holiday! Another Monday off enabled Busu and I to check out the hostel and hit up the infamous Beppu Hells – eight crazy coloured pools, far too hot and/or toxic for people to bath in. Fortunately six of these hells sit upon the same hillside! Each offering its own treats;

Kamado Jigoku

The heated seat experience – can I have it in my house, please?

Offers the touristiest experience, with heated seats, steam vents, footpath and restaurant.

It’s so blue! That’s a grape fanta, not a beer

Oniyama Jigoku

Has crocodiles and alligators… No idea why…

Yama Jigoku

Grape ice cream, a number of large and small animals in small cages, and a steamy pool.

Umi Jigoku

Offers the brightest, bluest of the pools, with a lovely walk around it, and eggs cooked in the waters.

Oniishibozu Jigoku

In Japanese, it’s name means, ‘bald monks head’, or something…


The muddy hell, from which gaseous bubbles erupt, giving the pools a tree-ring like appearance.

Further down the hill is the;

Shiraike Jigoku

A white pool, surrounded by housing and appartments, feating a lil, past its best aquarium (a generous name I feel…).

Then a few kilometres away, are the final two hells;

Chinoike Jigoku

Like a scene from Jurrassic park as the steam rises from the rust red pools – historically used for dying cloth.


Tatsumaki Jigoku

Has a showtime, every 30-40 minutes it spouts boiling water, for a 6-10 minute show. It’s one of the most reliable geysers in all the world!

Having finally got them under my belt, I feel I can leave Beppu finally satisfied.

And as if in conjunction with this momentous achievement, I found tortillas, tacos, salsa and quacamole in Beppu’s big mall – YouMe Town.

By J.Molkenthin

James Molkenthin is an enthusiastic and energetic British Designer, with a background in Graphics, Website and Product Design.