After Fukuoka, we travelled south west to Oita prefecture on Kyushu island. About one week prior, a large earthquake had hit Kumamoto prefecture on Kyushu island, with heavy aftershocks also hitting Oita prefecture. We were prepared to see some quake damage and maybe even experience some more aftershocks, however neither of these really happened. Fortunately there was no damage in the wonderful little seaside town of Beppu where we stayed, and only a few old walls collapsed in the surrounding towns.
Beppu itself is one of the most volcanically active places on earth, next to Yellowstone in the USA. The town is an onsen (hot spring bath) paradise, with hundreds of places to take hot natural bath from the small and popular to large beautiful and expensive. We tried out quite a number of them – our favourites were Hyoutan Onsen, which is very traditional in a Japanese garden, with pipes that pound hot water onto your back from above, and the Suginoi Hotel Onsen, which is on top of a hill overlooking the town of Beppu and the sea, which is quite spectacular.
Beppu also is known for it’s “hells”. As one of the most volcanically active places on earth, it has a number of sulphurous bubbling mud springs – red, blue, green, grey – as well as geysers! They were quite amazing to take a look at. One even had a small zoo attached which we thought was quite strange.
Nearby is a town called Yufuin, which actually was damaged (very slightly) in the quakes. It is a beautiful little town deep in the mountains also known for its onsens, even having an onsen footbath at the train platform.
All in all, the areas of Kyushu that we saw were quite nice, however… We think that there are better places in Japan to explore that are not quite so out of the way. We are glad we went and had a relaxing time there, but I don’t think we will revisit it. We would recommend Kinosaki onsen on the main island of Honshu, north of Osaka, instead if you are looking for a traditional onsen town – it’s less touristy and smaller.