Japan’s city that’s hot as hell

Beppu souvenir cookie packageThe expression ‘hell on earth’ conjures up images of something very unpleasant, so it is unlikely that the expression would be used to draw tourists. However, in Beppu city the expression ‘hell on earth’ is probably the best way to describe what you’ll get. Blistering pools of boiling thermal water, clouds of sulfuric gas, geysers squirting water from deep under the earth’s crust and bubbling hollows of mud are just some of the sites you will see in Beppu.

Should you forget you are in Japan’s very own ‘hell on earth’ the tourist staff will be happy to remind you with their uniforms which read “毎日が地獄です。 – “Everyday is hell.”

Beppu t-shirtBeppu city is located in Oita prefecture on the island of Kyushu. It is an area of high geothermal activity with eight geothermic hotspots, referred to as ‘the Eight Hells of Beppu’.

If you visit Beppu the Eight Hells are a must see. They are all except for two located in the same area and are within walking distance of one another. You can pay 500 yen to enter each individually but the best way to see all eight hells is to buy a day ticket for 2,000 yen. Each hell is different and has its own unique features.

Shiro Jigoku

shiro jigoku, the white hell

The first hell you will likely come to is called Shiro Jigoku or ‘the white hell’. It is one of the more serene geothermic pools featured at Beppu with light blue water and a peaceful Japanese garden.

Umi Jigoku

umi jigoku

The second hell is called Umi Jigoku, it is a pond of strikingly blue water, as the word Umi means ocean or sea. The cobalt blue water is offset nicely by the red gate of the inari (good luck) shrine next to it.

Oniishibozu Jigoku

oniishibozu jigoku

Oniishibozu Jigoku is the third hell, it features a series of boiling mud pools, each a different shade of grey. The popping bubbles are said to resemble the bald heads of demons. Hence the name oniishibozu.

Kamado Jigoku

kamado jigoku

The fourth hell is known as Kamado Jigoku. As you enter the first thing you will see is a bright read demon standing atop of a giant cooking pot. The more tamable geothermal springs around here were used by people for cooking and also for medicinal reasons. Visitors are recommended to thrust their face into the steam to relieve blocked noses, sore throats or eye allergies.

Oniyama Jigoku

oniyama jigoku

Oniyama Jigoku is the fifth hell. This area is half a zoo, half a geothermal hot spring. You can look at the bubbling pools of geothermal water on your right then turn your head to see crocodiles and hippos in cages on your left.

Tatsumaki Jigoku

tatsumaki jigoku

The sixth hell called Tatsumaki Jigoku is a geyser that erupts every 15 minutes or so. Both Tatsumaki Jigoku and Chinoike Jigoku are situated some distance from the other hells and it will require a short 10 minute bus ride to get to them.

Chinoike Jigoku

chinoike jigoku

The seventh hell Chinoike Jigoku translates to ‘The bloody pond’. Looking at the photo below it is easy to see how it got its name.

Kinryu Jigoku

Kinryu Jigoku, the Golden Dragon hell was closed for maintenance during my visit. However, should you enter you will be treated by a giant dragon spewing boiling steam from its mouth.

So, no matter what you preference there’s a hell for you in Beppu. To get there you can take the bullet train from Tokyo or Osaka and ride it down to Fukuoka city then transfer to a local train that will take you to Beppu. Another method is to fly straight into Beppu or if you want to take your time a third option could be to take an overnight cruise ship from Osaka and arrive in Beppu recharge and ready to go first thing in the morning. However you choose to go, Beppu City is a must see in Japan.

Map of Beppu’s Hells

Here is a (Japanese-language) map showing visitors how Beppu’s “Hells” are situated:


LyndenThis post was guest-authored by Lynden, a university teacher and artist living in Osaka.

Check out his art-related homepage here:

Posted under Living & Enjoying Japan by Nihonshock.