EAST COAST OF KYUSHU: BEPPU AND MIYAZAKI

BEPPU

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geyser hell
Beppu (about 1 hour from Fukuoka) is a cheesy spa town with neon-lit hot springs, love hotels, pachinko parlors, sleazy night clubs and so much steam rising from geothermal activity it looks like the city is on fire. About 140,000 people live in Beppu and 12 million tourists visit every year. Among the famous people who have visited it in the past were George Bernard Shaw and Charlie Chaplin. These days it attracts a lot of Korean and Chinese tourists

Beppu if floating on top of a huge hydrothermal field, 800 feet below the surface, that developed after nearby 4,500-foot-high Mt. Tsurumi erupted in A.D. 867. Eighty percent of the town depends on tourism. The area is filled with baths, pipes with steam pouring out, gardens and jogoku, or hells (colorful, touristy, Yellowstone-like hot water pools and spring). The Beppu Jogoku Tours features geyser, bubbling mid mud and blood red and cobalt blue hot water pools. The area around Beppu Station is not very lively and the waterfront is pretty ugly.

Websites:Beppu Tourism Association beppu-navi.jp Beppu City site Beppu City Map: Beppu Hot Spring Map Beppu City Recreation Area Map beppu-shisetsu.com ; Beppu Tourism Association Welcome to Beppu Ryokan and Minshuku Japanese Guest Houses Japanese Guest Houses Budget Accommodation: Japan Youth Hostels Japan Youth Hostels Check Lonely Planet books Getting There: Beppu is accessible by ferry, air (Oita airport) and by bus and by train from Fukuoka and other Japanese cities. The trip from Fukuoka tales about two and a half hours. Fukuoka-Hakata is the southern terminus of the main shinkansen line to Osaka and Tokyo. Lonely Planet Lonely Planet

Sights in Beppu

Suginoi Palace (connected to the Suginoi Hotel) is the epitome of Beppu kitsch. A combination public path and amusement park, it features the Flower Public Bath and Dream Public Bath, both of which adorned with tropical plants and features sand and saltwater baths, water slides, a revolving Buddha game, a plastic ice rink and other amusements.

Sights in the Beppu area include an African safari parkand cable care ride to 1,375-meter-high Mt. Tsurumi-dake. Mt. Tsurumi has an aerial lift. There is a great a view of Beppu Bay from the summit. You can enjoy seasonal blessings, including Rhododendron kiusianum in spring, cool weather in summer, colored leaves in autumn and rime ice in winter. The Hinokan Sex Museum, which had erotic temple reliefs from India, fertility figures from New Guinea, Tibetan tantric statues, wooden phalluses and moving copulated figures that are activated with the push a button, is now closed.

Mt. Takasaki Monkey Park less than 10 kilometers from Beppu) contains about 1,500 monkeys in two tribes that run free on a mountain and come the park to be fed in an area with temples and forests that tourists can walk around in. The park is is a wild place to at feeding times when the monkeys --- many of them mothers with young clinging to their backs --- scramble for sweet potatoes dumped from a cart pulled quickly by park employees. Nearby Oita Marine Palace Aquarium has 1,500 specimens of 90 species, including sharks and rays in a 1,250-ton tank as well as shows with seals, sea lions and walruses.

Spas and Onsen Areas in Beppu

What makes Beppu special is the shear amount of hot spring water and wide range of bath types. There are eight major hot spring areas: Beppu, Kannawa, Myobam. Kankaijo, Hamawaki, Kamegawa, Horita and Sibasekil, each with public baths and ryokan with baths. In addition to hot water baths, one can enjoy mud baths, steam, baths and baths with a variety of minerals. You can get maps and lists of baths at the tourist office at Beppu train station, If you can get a hotel or guesthouse in the Kannawa Onsen area.

Beppu's inns and hotels, and onsen baths utilized the 72,000,000 million liters of hot water that spills from out of the earth everyday from over 3,000 water sources in Beppu. The onsens are found into eight major areas:, which include the Hamawaki onsen area in the southeast, the Kannawa onsen area in the north, the Shibaseki onsen area near the small hell group, and the Myobam onsen area in the northwest.

The spas offer black sand baths, hot pools surrounded by trees and rocks, warm water swimming pools, mud baths, baths of graded temperatures, and baths scented with small floating bags of citron and orange peel. Takegawara Bathhouse is Beppu's oldest bath. Founded in 1879, it features wood floor, sunken baths, and tower pillars that support a roof as high a church. Water is also piped into farms and private homes to heat rooms, warm greenhouses and fuel brick and stone ovens. There are hot water hospitals and special centers where hot water is used to breed crocodiles and cultivate tropical plants.

Hells of Beppu

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mud hell
Jigoku ("hell") is an all encompassing word that describes geysers, bubbling mud pots and bubbling hot springs with colored water. They are somewhat similar to the geysers and hot water springs at Yellowstone National Park in the United States except they that they are placed in little tourist parks, and in some cases surrounded by tacky, candy-colored images of dragons and devils that look like they belong at a miniature golf course.

Seven of the nine hells are in Kannawa district. The largest Umijigoku, has sea-colored water that is used to cook eggs. Bozu Jigoku (Monk Hell) gets it name from the fact its mud bubbles resemble the shaved heads of Japanese monks. Kamado Jigoku and Kinryi Jigoku features images of a dragon and a demon. Oniyama Jigoku is used for breeding crocodiles. Many of the hells are surrounded by rich gardens.

A smaller group of hells contains Chinoike-jigoku, which gets it's blood red color from undissolved clays, and Tatsumaki, which contains a regularly-performing geyser. Entrance to each hell is ¥400. A ticket that allows visits to all of them but one is ¥2,000. Website: Beppu Hells Japan Guide

Yufuin

Yufuin (27 kilometers inland from Beppu) is pleasant hot spring resort with with a wide variety of baths including some delightful outdoor ones. Shadowed by h Yufu-dake volcano, it has a folk villages and a lake that is warmed by hot springs.Websites: Oita site discover-oita.com Yufuin Onsen Association yufuin.or.jp ; Ryokan and Minshuku Japanese Guest Houses Japanese Guest Houses Budget Accommodation: Japan Youth Hostels Japan Youth Hostels Check Lonely Planet books Getting There: Buses run between Yufuin and JR Beppu train station. Yufuin a 2 hour flight and 1 hour train ride from Tokyo, via Oita Airport. Lonely Planet Lonely Planet

Mt. Yufudake stands behind Yufuin. The mountain is called "Bungo Fuji (Mount Fuji of Oita)" because of the graceful shape. Over its base, there spreads the scenery of grassland maintained by controlled burning. In autumn, you shouldn't miss the colored leaves on the hillside. Yufudake is 1,583 meter high.

Comico Art Museum (in Yufuin) is known for its architecture and art. The building blends seamlessly into the beautiful local surroundings. Galleries feature works by masters such as the world-famous Takashi Murakami, prolific proponent of Japanese modern art and Hiroshi Sugimoto, whose monochrome ‘Seascapes’ series intensifies the pre-existing black and white interplay of the building. The museum highlights the cultural arts, comics and novels in a setting that melts into the landscape. One hour guided tours are available. Please note that an online reservation is required to enter the museum.Address: 2995-1 Yufuin-cho, Kawakami, Yufu-shi, Oita. Website: camy.oita.jp

Near Beppu

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Kokonoe Yume Large Suspension Bridge
Oita Prefecture, where Beppu is located, lies in the northeast corner of Kyushu. The prefecture covers 6,341 square kilometers (2,448 square miles), is home to about 1.16 million people and has a population density of 184 people per square kilometer. Oita is the capital and largest city, with about 480,000 people. It is on Kyushu island and has three districts, 18 municipalities.

Yabakei Gorge (north of Beppu) is famous for its strange rock formation, lush vegetation and a tunnel hewn through rock by a Buddhist monk who labored for 30 years. On Kunisaki Peninsula around the town of Usa are cliff-face carving and temples created by a religion that blended Shintoism and Buddhism and was banned by the Meiji government.

Kokonoe Yume Large Suspension Bridge (Kokonoemachi, Oita Prefecture) is the longest and highest pedestrian-only suspension bridge in Japan. Constructed as a cost of ¥2 billion, it towers 173 meters above the riverbed of Narukogawa Gorge. It can support 1,800 adults and offer scenic views of Shindido-taki falls and Kyusikei Gorge, which is known for its autumn leaves.

Ryumon Falls (in Kokonoemachi) is 40 meters wide and drops 20 meter in two tiers. It has two natural water slides. One of the slides is 30 meters long and is covered with soft, slippery moss.

Daifudo Cave on Kunisaki Peninsula (Kunisaki City, Oita Prefecture) was used as a monks' training ground where they traveled along a road; it is now maintained as the Kunisaki Peninsula Long Trail. The cavern dug in a rock cliff overlooks steep and oddly shaped ridgelines. Cape Kannon on the Hime-shima Island (Himeshima Village, Oita Prefecture) is the home of cliffs with consist of obsidian, and the obsidian rocks produced during the Stone Age were excavated from the ruins discovered across the nation. The area is recognized as a national special natural monument and designated as a Japanese Geopark.

Yamanami Highway connects the Aso and Kuju areas. It and the Milk Road that runs across Kita-Gairin caldera in the Aso-region are representative roads of Aso Kuju National Park. Both offer views of vast grasslands and the Kuju Mountain Range and the five peaks of Mt. Aso that stretch out in the distance. The Yamanami Highway is also called the Beppu-Ichinomiya Route.

MIYAZAKI

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Miyazaki (250 kilometers southeast of Fukuoka, three hours south of Beppu) is a city with 400,000 people and warm climate. Many of the city's sights are associated with the mythological creators of Japan. They include Miyazaki Shrine, dedicated to Jimmu, the first emperor of Japan. Many of early events of the Japanese creation myth took place in Miyazaki. Miyazaki-jingu is an important Shinto shrine and houses an archaeological museum.

Miyazaki is located on the Hyuga Sea in southeast Kyushu. The Oyodo River runs through the city. Sakurajima volcano lies to the west and occasionally spews ash blows towards Miyazaki. The Miyazaki area has been Inhabited for nearly 8,000 years. There is relatively little heavy industry in Miyazaki and as a result the air and water are clean. Its secluded parks, tree-lined boulevards, and an accessible riverfront have made the city a popular tourist and resort center. Heiwadai Park contains ancient mounds believed to be occupied by some of the first members of the royal family, and the 120-foot-high Peace Tower is an ugly structure erected in 1940 just before the beginning of World War II .Haniwa Garden (near Heiwadai Park) houses 400 replicas of ancient clay figures are found in the tombs. The city's university was founded in 1949.

Websites:Mikazaki City official site miyazaki-city.tourism.or;; Miyazaki Prefecture site visitmiyazaki.com Map and Brochure Downloads: miyazaki-city.tourism.or Ryokan and Minshuku Japanese Guest Houses Japanese Guest Houses Budget Accommodation: Japan Youth Hostels Japan Youth Hostels Check Lonely Planet books Getting There: is Miyazaki accessible by ferry, air, train and bus from several Japanese cities. It is not on the shinkansen line and by train is two and half hours from Kagoshima and five and a half hours from Fukuoka. Lonely Planet Lonely Planet

Near Miyazaki

Near Miyazaki City is dizzying 250-meter-long, 42-meter-high Aya-Teruha suspension bridge over some of Japan's oldest forests; Takachiho, a mountain resort near Takachiho Gorge; and Amano Yasugawara Cave, where the sun goddess hid and was lured out to perform a sacred dance.

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Nichinan National Seacoast Park
Miyazaki Prefecture covers 7,735 square kilometers (2,986 square miles), is home to about 1.1 million people and has a population density of 143 people per square kilometer. Miyazaki is the capital and largest city, with about 400,000 people. It is on the southeastern part of Kyushu island and has six districts and 26 municipalities.

Saiobaru Burial Mounds Park (near Miyazaki) contains 380 ancient burial mounds, the largest such site in scale and number in the country. Made between the 4th and 7th century, the tombs ranges size from small rises to large hills and includes unusual keyhole-shaped mounds. A small museums displays jewelry, armor, swords, haniwa pottery figures and other objects found in the tombs.

Kojima Island (near Nichinan) is famous for it troupes of wild macaques who wash their food in both saltwater and freshwater and separating grains of rice from sand by cleverly throwing them into the water and collecting the rice grains, which float.

Obi (one hour by train from Miyazaki) is a good place to escape from busy Japanese life. Visited by a relatively small number of tourists, it is located on an inland section of the Udo headland on the Nichinan Coast. The main attractions are old houses, plaster storehouses, stone walls and "borrowed view" gardens that incorporate distant mountain. The castle was destroyed in 1870. Only it walls have been rebuilt. Getting There: Obi is accessible by bus and train from Miyazaki.

Nichinan National Seacoast Park extends for 60 miles along the coast. It is celebrated for its luxuriant tropical and subtropical vegetation and mild climate, caused in part by the warm Black Current that flows up from Okinawa and is found off the coast. Cape Toi is known for its herd of "wild" horses.

Seagaia

Seagaia Resort (near Miyazaki) was billed as the world's largest indoor water recreation center. One hundred meters wide, 300 meters long and 38 meters high, it featured a huge 10,000-person wave pool, artificial beach made of crushed Chinese marble, bikini clad girls, a man-made volcano that erupted every 15 minutes, and a variety of slides, shops and snack bars.


closes Seagaia Ocean Dome
In the wave pool, waves up to eight feet high are generated by a wave machine with 40 computer-controlled vacuum chambers. Underneath the blue sky painted onto the complex's ceiling (which slides open in nice weather and is the world's largest retractable ceiling) are man-made clouds, which slowly drift by. Ironically the ocean is only a few minutes away.

Seagaia resort was conceived in 1988, during the height of the Bubble Economy. Built at a cost of $2 billion, it opened in 1994 and for a while was Japan's fifth largest theme park after Tokyo Disneyland, Universal Studios Japan, DisneySea and Huis Ten Bosch.

Seagaia planners expected the project to show a profit its first year based on the assumption it would attract 5.5 million visitors. It only attached 2.7 million its first year and 3.86 million the second year, which was not enough to make it profitable. By 1999, the resort owed more than $1.2 billion and its bank refused to lend it any more money. In 2001, Seagaia filed for bankruptcy and it was sold to the management company Ripplewood LLC.

The ocean dome was closed in October 2007. The present facility contains a convention hall, 99 holes of golf and four hotels, including one with 45 floors and 753 rooms. In fiscal 2006 Seagaia made a profit (¥220 million) for the first time. Credit was given to management of operator, the U.S. investment company RHJ International, the successor of Ripplewood LLC. In March 2012. Sega Sammy Holdings of Tokyo announced it would buy all the stock of Phoenix Resort, the operators of the city’s SeaGaia Ocean Dome, the world’s largest indoor water park, from RHJ International in the United States. The purchase price of the stock was around $36 million. yen.. Sega Sammy sells pachinko and amusement machines and game software, and operates amusement centers. This is its first effort at operating a resort. Website: Phoenix Seagaia Resort Sheraton

Aoshima Island

Aoshima Island (south of Miyazaki) is a tiny islet know for its dense groves of betel nut palm trees as well as 200 other different kinds of plants. During low tide a five mile section of seashore with washboard layers of rock and other formations caused by eroding wave action are exposed. These are known as the Devil's Washboard (Oni no Sentaku-Ita).

The town of Aoshima is a tourist trap with cafes, hotels and amusement arcades. It attracts lots of Japanese tourist and weekend surfers. Near Aoshima is the prefectural Plant Garden and Cactus Park (with over a million cactuses of different species).

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Udo Jingu Shrine (near Nichinan 20 miles south of Aoshima) is located in a large sea-eroded cave on the Pacific Ocean at the tip of Cape Udo. It is dedicated to the mythological father of the mythological first emperor of Japan. The brightly-painted orange-red shrine is reached by a staircase that clings to a rockface and is flanked by bright red-and-orange banisters.

Visitors to the shrine but five clay balls for ¥100 and throw them at a statue of a turtle. Women throw with their right hand and men throw with their left. Hitting the turtle is said to bring good luck. The custom was dreamed up by a PTA at a local school in 1954. There is also cave with a pair of breast-shaped rocks that young mother pray at for more milk.

Aoshima Beach (just south of Miyazaki City) is regarded as one of Japan’s best surfing spots, boasting fine balmy weather and the blue Pacific waters. Set in this ideal location, Surf City Miyazaki is the main activities center, with surfing lessons, surfboard rentals as well as lessons and rentals for standup paddle boards (SUPs). It’s also a haven for yoga enthusiasts, with instructors certified in a wide range of yoga schools leading classes in the studio, on the beach, or even right on the water. Hikes along the beach or in mountain are popular. Website: surfcity-miyazaki.jp

Takachiho Gorge

Takachiho (150 kilometers north of Miyazaki City, 70 kilometers east of Kumamoto, and 120 kilometers southwest of Beppu) is steeped in Japanese mythology, being the spot where the gods descended from heaven and created the Japanese archipelago. Nestled in the heart of its deep forests is Takachiho Gorge, an awe-inspiring ravine encompassing the cobalt blue Gokase River that was born of a massive lava flow from Mount Aso about 90,000 to 120,000 years ago. Trek down one of the many forest paths to view the chasm from above, or better still, rent a rowboat and admire it from below. If you’re lucky, the 17 meter high Manai Falls may even spray you, which is considered an auspicious sign. Finally, round off your trip with a look at Takachiho Shrine, stay for a kagura dance, or feast on local delicacies like Takachiho beef and Miyazaki-brewed shochu. Address: Mitai-oshioi, Takachiho-cho, Nishiusuki-gun, Miyazaki

Passengers can ride on a “super-kart” and new train over the Takachiho railway bridge. Takafumi Fujimoto wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “The tracks of the now-defunct Takachiho Railway in Miyazaki Prefecture — discontinued due to damage caused by Typhoon No. 14 in 2005 — have been revived as a popular tourist attraction that carried 26,000 passengers in fiscal 2015. Takachiho Amaterasu Rail Park Inc., the new operator of the line, runs a seven-meter-long “super-kart” it converted from a mini-truck on the old tracks.. [Source: Takafumi Fujimoto, Yomiuri Shimbun, February 23, 2017]

“Takachiho Railway began operating in 1989 as a so-called third-sector company, a business entity jointly capitalized by the public and private sectors, to take over the Takachiho Line, once operated by the now-defunct Japan National Railways. Takachiho Railway, however, found it difficult to attract passengers due to a declining population along the line and improved road conditions. The damage caused by the 2005 typhoon eventually forced the company to abandon the route’s operation.

Takachiho Amaterasu Rail Park currently provides 10 runs a day, and usually operates every day except Thursdays and the year-end and New Year’s holidays. The super-kart runs on a 5.1-kilometer round-trip course, starting from Takachiho Station and looping back at the Takachiho railway bridge, a 105-meter-high, 352-meter-long platform that lets passengers enjoy magnificent views of the mountains and a crisp breeze blowing from the valley.

“The operator has found the two-car super-kart unable to keep up with demand, as it can carry only 18 passengers, leaving some tourists unable to find a seat on weekends. The super-kart has also been prone to malfunctions. In one case, the vehicle had to be pulled by local high school students when it broke down along the way. The company therefore has decided to introduce a new three-car train capable of accommodating 30 passengers. Asahi Tec, a company manufacturing cars for amusement parks and other attractions in Tokushima Prefecture, was asked to produce the 15-meter-long train. Information: Takachiho Amaterasu Rail Park, Tel: (0982) 72-3216. Those looking to stay the night will find a host of ryokan options, with many offering hot springs and beautiful mountain views in surrounding area. Admission: The train fare is ¥1,300 for high school students and older, ¥800 for elementary and junior high school students and ¥400 for preschoolers. Getting There: Takachiho is accessible by bus (reservation required) from Hakata (3.5 hours) or Kumamoto (2 hours). Website: takachiho-kanko.info

Image Sources: 1) map Japanese Guest Houses 2) 3) Ray Kinnane 4) 5) Fukuoka City Tourism 6) Association for the Promotion of Traditional Crafts Industries in Japan 7) Wikipedia, 8) 10), 11), 12), 13) 14) Nagasaki City Tourism, 9) Gensuikan, 15), 16), 17), 18) 19) 20) Kumamoto Prefecture tourism, 21) Aso Disater Prevention, 22), 23) Hotel Club Travel Club, 24) Joel Swagman

Text Sources: JNTO (Japan National Tourist Organization), Japan.org, Japan News, Japan Times, Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan Ministry of the Environment, UNESCO, Japan Guide website, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2020


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