For travel to Beppu we use the Shinkansen bullet trains on our JR Pass leaving our previous destination of Osaka (Shin-Osaka Station). The journey takes roughly 4 hours (via Kokura) travelling to the very southwest regions of Japan, to the island of Kyushu, where we find the 8 Hells of Beppu in Oita. This is where we start our tour of the 8 Hells (jigoku). At Beppu Station, a hub for both trains and buses, we find a tourist ticket office which sells one-day bus passes for travel to, and from, the locations of the 8 Hells of Beppu. The Hells are split between two different areas in the back hills of Beppu, and comprise of 8 uniquely different volcanic hot spring pits, making for some of the best ryokans in Japan.
Day tickets for the local bus route cost 980 Yen pp and are given with maps and all info necessary to make the journey simple. The route does use local buses, which isn’t ideal, but it does work. At the first hell we buy our attraction tickets at the entrance. The attraction tickets come as a booklet of 8, one ticket for each hell, and will be checked and stubs discarded at each hell. The ticket price was 2,100 Yen per person, or individual hells can be visited at 400 Yen each. On our visit we arrive to Beppu Station at 2pm, whereas the 8 Hells close at 5pm, yet we still manage to visit all 8 Hells with time to spare. It was of course, rushed, and the lady at the ticket counter said we had no chance, but skipping past the tourist tack made it doable. While three hours is possible, I don’t recommend it. 40 minutes of this time will likely be spent on the bus, to and between, the two geothermal areas but the real problem with travelling late in the day is that come 5pm, all the Hells will close and all visitors will be turfed out to the kerbside to queue for buses. The real hell of Beppu was 30 minutes pressed to the windows of the local bus, as we travel back to Beppu Station.
The First 5 Hells
The bus takes us first to Umi Jigoku, near the Kannawa station, following bus numbers 5, 7 or 9 from Beppu Station. The bus departs from the station front as indicated by the information and ticketing office. There’s plenty of help if needed. The journey to the first 5 hells takes roughly 15 minutes through the back hills of Beppu to disembark at a car park next to the entrances of each individual hell. The bus driver announces the stop as we arrive, so there’s little chance of missing it. We go on to visit all 5 hells before forwarding to the next.
The Next 3 Hells
Leaving the first 5 hells we are again through the front car park to find a trickle of tourists following the path to nearby Kannawa bus station. We also follow. Again, it is easy to find and people will be helpful to point in the right direction if necessary. At Kannawa Station we join the queue for Chinoike Jigoku / Tatsumaki Jigoku travelling again by local bus, this time numbers 16 or 16A. The waiting takes around 12 minutes and travel takes around 10 minutes to the last 3 Hells. Again we explore the 3 hells which includes a 2o minute wait at the volcanic geyser, which erupts every 30-40 minutes. Apparently this geyser can reach heights of 20 to 30 meters, although the top has been lowered because it’s ‘too dangerous’. Spoilsports.
Stuff in Between
We skip past the zoo exhibits, hippos and whatnot, and we do the same with the cafes and restaurants. Some of the foods do look intriguing with steamed pudding and boiled eggs etc. cooked in the hot spring waters, however we leave eating to later. We skip past the souvenir shops and the only stop we really make is at the last hell where we bask in smug victory with our feet in the geothermal foot spas. These free foot spas are found at many of the hells along the way but, with limited time, we never expect to enjoy them. At the same attraction we bump into doge, that adorable Japanese dog (Shiba Inu) from internet meme fame, which pokes fun at the Japanese use of broken English. I get to rub Doges face. Wow! So fur.
Our Base in Tsurusaki
We did plan to explore Beppu during our visit where the town looks to be an attraction in itself. Beppu is a coastal settlement with seafront promenades, restaurants, bars, and yet we fail to see past the train station Lotteria burger restaurant, on the way back. Accommodation options (Beppu hotels here) were limited / expensive due our visit due to the Golden Week holidays so instead we base ourselves down the line in a small town called Tsurusaki. The hotels here were cheap and we were located directly next to Tsurasaki Station (nearby hotels) which worked well. Also, the town of Tsurusaki was intriguing in itself as I explore in the evening to find empty streets with occasion quaint and quirky restaurants. The town appears to be centered round a tower of pachinko, slots and amusement arcades, and feels a bit like a stopover or commuter town, where passers forward to Beppu and other attractions in the area.
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