Kyushu island, in southern Japan, has some of the most famous and plentiful amount of hot springs. Oita prefecture has two famous hot spring areas, Beppu and Yufuin.
Both Beppu and Yufuin hot spring areas are easily accessible from Oita Airport. There are many flights available from Haneda Airport (Tokyo) which makes it to reach, so even if you don’t take a day off on weekdays, you can visit these areas on the weekend.
Now, when planning a trip to enjoy hot springs in Oita, do you worry about whether to visit Beppu or Yufuin?
If it is a 2 day trip, you can visit Yufuin on the first day and Beppu on the next day, but this time I will consider which of Yufuin and Beppu will be the more refreshing trip.
In addition, the theme will be “a trip to refresh the body and mind”, and I will judge which hot spring area is suitable
First of all, let’s compare the cityscape when you get off at the station.
Beppu City is the second largest city in Oita Prefecture, there are business hotels (which don’t have hot springs) and department stores lined up around JR Beppu Station. Beppu Onsen boasts the largest number of hot springs and the largest amount of hot spring water in Japan, along with more than 8 million tourists visiting every year.
There is a hand bath in front of the station, and there are foot baths anywhere, it’s a hot spring resort!
It will make your body and soul feel at ease after your long trip.
The city has become an entertainment district, and it has a mixed atmosphere.
Beppu is good for people who want to drink, or want to visit night club, but it doesn’t seem to match the concept of wanting to relax quietly in a hot spring area.
The beginning of Yufuin trip is from Yufuin Station Building.
It is a wooden building designed by Arata Isozaki who is one of the most famous architects of the 1990s, and designed simply to keep the beautiful cityscape as the main focus .
The station at night is also tasteful, and it has a quiet and calm cityscape that you can not experience in Tokyo.
There are many cute souvenir shops and restaurants on the main street from the station, so it’s a fun city to take a stroll around. It is a landscape that matches the adult’s relaxing trip.
So, if you’re traveling from Tokyo for relaxation, Yufuin has the advantage.
hot spring comparison
Next is the comparison of the hot springs. Both areas have hot springs where you can relax and be at ease.
About 10 minutes on foot from Beppu station, there is Takegawara Onsen (竹瓦温泉). It’s in the middle of downtown where you can see night club for men. Takegawara Onsen is a municipal hot spring located in Motomachi, Beppu City, and is a beautiful building with a historical tiled roofs.
I would like you to try Suna-yu (sandbath) here.
For the sand bath you change into a special yukata (kimono style cloth), lie down on the sand, and the ladies shovel the warmed sand on the top of your body. Ibusuki in Kagoshima Prefecture is famous for sand baths, but you can also enjoy sand baths here in Beppu.
The sand, warmed by geothermal heat, warms the body to the core, and it seems to be good at detoxification, so it is a nice relaxation for a tired body.
It’s only about 15 minutes buried in the sand, but when you sweat, your body becomes warm and your skin becomes smooth.
You will feel like you want to go every week to keep the skin-beautifying effect. Also, the moderate weight of the sand feels good.
After the sand bath, you can take a bath in the hot spring. I felt like the joints around the shoulders which are usually stiff became tender and and my skin became smooth.
In the Yufuin area, I enjoyed the hot springs at the hotel, not at the public baths.
Hot spring water is clear and soft on the skin, and makes you want to use it forever.
In particular, at the Yufuin Shikisai Hotel where I stayed, there is a private bath (where you can always change water and enjoy the fresh bath) in which you refill with hot water every time. Since I could use a large bath any time, I was able to adjust the temperature of the hot water to my liking.
It’s hard to find such a luxurious hot spring!
What I learned from visiting various hot springs is that you cannot bathe in fresh water bath unless the hot spring produces a large amount of water. In that respect, both Beppu and Yufuin have a lot of hot water, so you can enjoy fresh fresh baths in each.
So, in this comparison, they are a draw!
Beppu is famous for it’s “hells”. There are eight hells, including Umi Jigoku (Sea), Oniishibozu Jigoku (Demon’s head), and Yama Jigoku (Mountain).
I especially recommend the nationally designated scenic spot Umi Jigoku. Umi Jigoku is said to have been created by the explosion of Mt. Tsurumi about 1200 years ago.
It has a cobalt blue color due to iron sulfate.
The temperature gets as high as 98 degrees Celsius (208 F) and the depth to the spring vein is said to reach 200 meters (656 feet). The color is very beautiful and fantastic, but the steam has a strong sulfur smell and rises which makes it seem exactly the pain of hell.
In addition, Oniishi Bozu Jigoku (demon’s head), which is right next to Umi Jigoku, is a “hell” that is completely different from Umi Jigoku because of the hot mud.
It’s not steaming, it’s a quiet, simmering type of hell, which is also scary.
Also, in Yama Jigoku (mountain), water vapor is blowing up from the vicinity of the foot of the rocky mountain.
A mini zoo is set up which uses the heat of Jigoku to make a warm environment for the animals.
Nine kinds of animals including flamingo, Japanese macaque, hamadryas baboon, llama, hippo, African elephant, Indian peacock and black swan are living there. A zoo in hell?? It’s a mysterious zoo, but it might be a good hell for those with children. (In this case, “hell” is a misnomer, it can be enjoyed by all)
A famous sightseeing spot in Yufuin is Lake Kinrin (金鱗湖), which is about a 30-minute walk from Yufuin Station.
The lake has both hot and fresh water springs from a part of the bottom and morning mist can be seen from autumn to early winter.
The morning mist is said to be steamed from a lake containing hot springs.
In addition, Yufuin has many fashionable shops which you can enjoy visiting. You can take a horse and carriage (辻馬車) ride to go around the city.
- 4km 60 minutes course
Departing from Yufuin Station → Bussanji Temple → Unagi Himejinja Shrine → Arrive at Yufuin Station
As I went around this course, the driver talked about the history of Yufuin, and I became more fond of this city.
This is Mt. Yufu. Also known as Bungo Fuji, you can see the unique view of mountain from various places. It is a landmark that has been worshiped as a mountain of the gods for a long time. It appears in one of Japan’s oldest anthology of poems called Manyoshu (万葉集). This mountain has a rare view without tall trees.
In sightseeing comparison, Yufuin has advantage with its beautiful views and historic horse and carriage. It’s a very unique experience.
Final comparison is the food. In Beppu, I had a set of “dango-jiru” and “chicken rice ball” in front of the station.
Dango-jiru is like pork soup with miso-style broth containing flat noodles, burdock, and carrots.
The local cuisine has a gentle taste which is nostalgic for Japanese.
Also, at Umi Jigoku, there are specialty hot spring eggs which boiled in a basket soaking in the “hell” hot water. You can get 5 eggs for 300 yen.
I also recommend the hell steamed pudding. (See the Pudding Comparison below.)
In Yufuin, I received “Bungo Beef Mabushi”. (I couldn’t take a good picture, because I was too focused on enjoying the delicious dish.)
Bungo Beef is one type of wagyu, it is juicy and goes well with freshly steamed rice to stimulate my appetite. Eat the first cup as is, then add the condiments to the second cup, and finally add the soup stock to the third cup to make rice soup. You can also enjoy the taste of the crispy rice at the bottom.
The appetizers were abundant in variety and volume, delicious and very satisfying.
Yufuin’s “Bungo Beef Mabushi” was the overwhelming victor in the meal comparison.
[Bonus] Pudding Comparison
The last is the pudding showdown. The reason I picked pudding is that sweets are an indispensable part of a refreshing trip. Also, I really just like pudding.
The sweets you have on your trip are special.
For pudding in the Beppu area, I would like to introduce “Hell steamed pudding”, sold at Umi Jigoku.
Hot spring eggs and hell steamed pudding are both made using the heat from the hot spring source.
Enjoy a little happiness in hell!
Steamed pudding has a bittersweet caramel sauce and a rich taste, for me, I ate it up very quickly. This pudding is said to have many fans all over the country.
Yufuin also has delicious pudding that is as good as Beppu. As I walked through the streets of Yufuin, there was a signboard for smooth pudding, and there were many sweets shops selling pudding as well.
Among them, I chose a shop called “Yufuin Milch”. Their pudding is made using milk from Yufuin, but unlike Beppu, it is like a very thick milkshake.
I also ate this pudding quickly. There was a long line so it seems to be a very popular shop.
And the result is…
Neither pudding can be compared with completely different textures and both being delciious! So is it a draw!
Which is better, Yufuin Onsen or Beppu Onsen? What’s the result?
The result of “whether of Beppu and Yufuin is more suitable for a trip to relax your body and mind?” is…
Yufuin protects the scenery of the city, there are many attractive things such as horse and carriage, the Yufuin station building blends into the city, there’s delicious food in the area, and each person in the area protects this city. The atmosphere you are in is directly transmitted.
Beppu is an old-fashioned hot spring town, but the town itself was a little less tidy. Since it has become an entertainment district, the precious Takegawara Onsen, which has been designated as a Heritage of Industrial Modernization, is surrounded by night clubs.
Also, on the streets to Beppu Station, there are bars and night clubs for men, and I’m still worried about the bad scenery.
That’s why it’s completely my personal opinion, but in order to relax the mind and body, Yufuin has the advantage!
(Of course, Yufuin’s victory is limited to the purpose of relaxing.)
3 Recommended hotels and Japanese style inns in Yufuin
Lastly, I would like to introduce the recommended inns in the Yufuin area because of the victory of Yufuin. Yufuin has many spacious and discerning inns, but I have picked three inns where you can spend your time calmly and quietly.
Founded in 1918, this inn has 20 rooms on a 10,000 square meter site connected to Lake Kinrin. Although it is close to tourist spots, it is a very quiet and spacious inn, and all rooms have hot springs (open-air bath or indoor bath). The bath in the large guest room is nice, but the large communal bath in the garden is also fantastic. Not only the rooms and hot springs are wonderful, but the kaiseki cuisine (Japanese style dinner course) is delicious and beautiful dishes will be memorable. As the name suggests, you can feel nature in the atmosphere of a villa that feels extraordinary.
A 15 minute walk from Yufuin Station, this ryokan (Japanese style inn) has 14 guest rooms in a wooded area. All guest rooms have a hot spring bath with a wooden bathtub. It is also a nice point that airweave (a mattress that is particular about sleeping comfort) is used for bedding. You can choose from Bungo wagyu beef, shrimp shabu-shabu and duck hot pot as the main dish for dinner. You can enjoy it with other dishes that use carefully selected local ingredients. It’s not a gorgeous inn, but you can feel that it has a long history.
Asagirinomieru Yado Yufuin Hanayoshi
Hanayoshi Yufuin, an inn where you can see the morning mist.
It is a 6-minute drive from Yufuin Station (with a hotel shuttle bus). Mt. Yufu looks beautiful from the rooms and the open-air baths in the guest rooms, and I was impressed by the scenery. The open-air hot spring baths in the guest rooms have different styles, including those with a jacuzzi and others with baths made of cypress. Some rooms have a footbath as well. The meal varies depending on the season, but it is an original kaiseki meal (Japanese style dinner course) using local ingredients, including wagyu beef.