Situated in the southern part of Oita prefecture, in March of 2015 the city celebrated its 10 year anniversary since combining 7 small towns and villages: Mie, Ono, Asaji, Inukai, Ogata, Kiyokawa, and Chitose. While they have combined to form one “city,” they each retain their own identities as towns, including their addresses and tourist destinations.
Bungo-ono has rolling mountains covered in dense forestation, between which golden fields of rice fill the flatlands from August through September. A short ride away from Oita city by car or train, it feels like a lifetime away from the harsh concrete and business of the bigger city.
Bungo-ono really lacks a definite ‘city centre’, but Mie is the base for the JETs in the area. Most of the town is situated along the route 326/502. The northern part is home to the larger chain stores and shops, which turns into a restaurant/snack bar/entertainment district around the station area, before you pop back into the countryside.
The Bungo-ono area is connected to Oita city by train, with trains running about twice an hour. They are cute, little, local trains. Trains run from Oita to Miemachi, or Oita to Bungo-Taketa (Taketa). There are also some local buses that run between the former towns. A car is the best for travelling between the tourist spots, and for travel in general.
Points of Interest
Olle Hike, Asaji – Taketa
Kyushu is home to a number of easy access hiking routes, one of which begins at Asaji Station and follows a 12 km route into Taketa. It offers beautiful views of the land, especially during fall when the leaves are turning red. Check out the routes here and here.
Izumi Stone Caves (稲積水中鍾乳洞)
This place has a series of caves that don’t really change temperature – they put that gem all over the advertisements! Has a few other bits and pieces, including a trippy, ‘back in time’ exhibition.
“The Niagara Falls of Japan” is a common name for Harajiri falls. About a 20 minute drive from Miemachi, it’s the #1 thing to see if in the area. Conveniently, next to it sits the #3 thing to do in Bungo-ono (as on Tripadvisor) – the Harajiri road side station – which sells an array of omiyage and seasonal ice cream.
Two waterfalls with stories attached, and the ruins of old electrical power stations.
Eating, Shopping and Entertainment
Disputably the best curry in Oita, it’s not to be missed. They offer a fine selection of curries, drinks and naans, as well as great value set menus. You can even choose your spice level. Try 10-15 on your first go, you should be fine! Facebook page here.
Cafe Paper Moon (カフェ ペーパー ムーン)
A small pizzeria cafe, you get the sense the owners have spent some serious time in Europe. It’s a great little spot for a pizza and drink in a nice, atmospheric, quirky place. Check it out here.
Random Pizza Place
Great for Friday night pizza! Offers thin crust with weird toppings, but after a while, you don’t even notice. Does take away, not delivery, though why you’d want to miss the quaint ski-lodge-like interior I don’t know! Menu is in Japanese (on the wall, on wooden planks) Address: 白木屋〒879-7125大分県豊後大野市三重町内田372−1
A spirited snack bar, about 20m, in front and to the left of Miemachi station. Though there are many in Miemachi, this one is spacious with a large seating area for groups. Carries the latest songs, a few locals, and the owners always seem happy to have us visit. Rates in 2015 are 2,000円 for under 2 hours, 3,000円for 3+ if there until closing.
A popular choice for group dinners, Kiku offers a set menu and nomihoudai for 3000円(2015). Over a number of courses you’ll get a mix of familiar and weirder dishes, with presentation from exotic to eccentric. The owner’s style is eclectic and surprising, so be sure to ask for some after dinner entertainment. Address: 喜久〒879-7111 大分県豊後大野市三重町赤嶺
Normally in the second week August, Obon (the festival for the dead) is celebrated with a big carnival in Miemachi town including floats and food stalls – good fun!
Harajiri Falls Lantern Festival
Keep a lookout for this – I can’t remember where it is, but it’s some point in late summer or early fall. All the roads are illuminated with lanterns, and there’s music around the falls.
JET Life in Bungo-ono
As of 2015, there are 5 JETs covering the Bungo-Ono area, all of which live in Miemachi.
Four ALTs support Elementary Schools and Junior High Schools across the region, and are contracted by the Bungo-ono Board of Education. There is also one High School ALT at Mie Sogo High school, who visits schools in Oita and Taketa.
JETs can choose their own accommodation, though usually inherit their predecessors. BOE JETs require a car to travel between schools, though Mie town is spread out such that all JETs have cars regardless.