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Tuesday, February 13, 2024

3-day Japan Itinerary in Oita — Kyushu’s Hidden Onsen City

Spending three days in Oita, I realised, there’s a lot extra to Japan than the acquainted favourites of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. 

Whereas three days isn’t sufficient for a visit to Japan, this is a superb add-on to your present Japan itinerary. If it’s your first time to this full of life nation, take a look at our first-timer’s information to Japan.

For these three days, you’ll be able to count on onsens, previous cities, beautiful sake, and scenic prepare rides. If that feels like your kind of journey, this Japan itinerary will get you planning your subsequent journey sooner than you’ll be able to say “Japan Rail Move”.

The place is Oita and Learn how to Get There?

Oita prefecture is positioned on Kyushu island — Japan’s third largest island. From Singapore, you’ll be able to fly on to Fukuoka Airport, then hop on a 2-hour prepare journey to Oita Station.

Alternatively, you might catch a home flight to Oita Airport.

Attending to Oita by way of JR Kyushu

I flew into Fukuoka Airport and made my technique to the airport’s subway station. Two stops from there’s Hakata Station the place the JR Line entrance is!

From there, I received on board the Yufu Restricted Categorical — a shiny purple locomotive that offers off Hogwarts Categorical vibes. 

You can even select to take the Yufuin No Mori prepare! The Yufuin No Mori is pricier although but it surely has a stunning wooden inside and further perks like a bar counter! Both approach, each trains go by the identical scenic route and the journey is about two hours lengthy.

*Professional-tip: Verify prepare schedules beforehand and purchase a ticket that matches your itinerary.

Meals isn’t served on this prepare, however you’ll be able to carry your personal snacks and drinks on board. Seats had been tremendous cozy and the stowaway desk which was good to make amends for some work. However don’t overlook to look out the window for the limitless views of the countryside, paddy fields, and mountainous backdrops!

I received off at Yufuin Station and began exploring Oita prefecture from there. 

Day 1: Yufuin & Kuju

Mount Yufu is the very first thing you’ll see if you exit Yufuin Station. This city has numerous principal points of interest and is without doubt one of the busiest cities in Oita prefecture — however nonetheless extraordinarily peaceable by Tokyo’s requirements!

*Professional-tip: Lease a automotive when you’re in Yufuin — it’s the best technique to get round Oita prefecture. Native guides advocate Toyota Lease-a-car!

From Yufuin, it’s about an hour’s drive as much as the Kuju space the place will probably be a bit colder within the winter however the elevation presents gorgeous views.

Yunotsubo Avenue 

First up, Yunotsubo Avenue! This principal road in Yufuin stretches for about 1 km and is lined with memento outlets, snack stands, foot spas, and the likes. You’re gonna wish to begin the day right here when you get off the Yufu prepare. 

Comfortable-serve ice cream is in all places right here (and throughout Oita, as I rapidly realized). So I caved and tried this combined vanilla-coffee cone (¥450) from Nakashima Kyujo Espresso. My information received the matcha latte (¥650). Individuals-watching whereas engaged on the cone was one in every of my favorite moments on Yunotsubo Avenue. 

*Professional-tip: Comply with Nakashima Kyujo Espresso on Instagram and present proof throughout cost for a free pack of immediate espresso.

Even with newer and fashionable shops popping up, the OGs are nonetheless standing robust – like this kabosu paste retailer that’s been round earlier than the Fifties. The proprietor is so candy and pleasant. She even places out tasting jars so you’ll be able to select your faves earlier than buying. I received two jars (¥600 every); one jar of the yuzu paste and one other of the kabosu paste — a lime-based seasoning specifically made in Oita!

There are such a lot of issues to eat, see, and do alongside Yunotsubo Avenue, I may have spent hours right here.

Opening hours: 9AM – 5PM
Learn how to get there: 5min stroll from Yufuin Station. While you see a mass of crowds, you’re there! (Google Maps)


Yunotsubo Avenue will lead you on to Kinrin Lake — distinctive as a result of it’s a mixture of freshwater and sizzling spring water. Since water temperatures are heat all year long, the lake is particularly beautiful on winter mornings when steam rises from the floor!


Picture credit score: Yufu Vacationer Data

It’s really useful to get right here early and seize a spot at Cafe La Ruche; a coffeehouse that faces Kinrin Lake, to observe this phenomenon.

*Professional-tip: Carry your telephoto lens or binoculars when you’re into birds. You’ll be able to simply spot cormorants, herons, and geese right here.

Inside strolling distance from Kinrin Lake, on the facet of Yunotsubo Avenue, is COMICO ART MUSEUM YUFUIN — an area devoted to displaying varied works of Japanese artists. 

Once I was there, in January 2024, inventive works of the famed Yayoi Kusama had been showcased!

Picture credit score: ©Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

Yufuin is a magical place that retains drawing you again, and the long-term exhibitions at COMICO ART MUSEUM YUFUIN seize that spirit completely. The artwork on show isn’t simply one thing you expertise simply as soon as — it’s a group you’ll be able to revisit, discovering new particulars or interpretations every time. Get a sneak peek of the exhibition by way of the web site.

*Professional-tip: E-book a slot upfront to get ¥200 off ticket worth!

Kinrin Lake
Entrance charge: Free
Greatest time to go: ~8AM, Cafe La Ruche opens at 9AM
Learn how to get there: 10 min stroll from Yunotsubo Avenue (Google Maps)

Price: ¥1700/pax 
Opening hours: 9:30AM – 5PM (final entry 4PM), Thu – Tue
Learn how to get there: 12 min stroll from Yunotsubo Avenue (Google Maps)

Kokonoe Yume Suspension Bridge

Should you’re searching for extra issues to do in Oita, drive as much as Kuju and pop by Kokonoe Yume Suspension Bridge — the very best suspended pedestrian bridge in Japan (173m excessive)! 

Locals say the views are particularly beautiful throughout autumn due to the colored leaves. However it’s nonetheless price a go to when you’re coming throughout different seasons for 360-degree views of Kuju’s mountains

As somebody afraid of heights, the elevated stroll was fairly thrilling for me! The center part of the bridge was glass-bottomed and I may even really feel it sway a tiny bit typically. 

*Professional-tip: Search Shinto Shrine on Google Maps for a chicken’s-eye view of the Kokonoe Yume Bridge that not many individuals know of. Nonetheless a hidden gem!

Price: ¥500/pax
Opening hours: Varies, test this web site for particulars
Learn how to get there: From Yufuin, it’s virtually a straight drive alongside Route 216 (Google Maps)

Bonus: Kuju Forest Park Snowboarding Grounds

Should you’re in Oita throughout winter, go to Kuju Forest Park Snowboarding Grounds — a lesser-known ski resort within the space.

Elevate passes begin at ¥5,500 which is kind of inexpensive for a ski resort!

The place to Keep in Taketa, Oita 

Hostel Cue makes an important base for the subsequent day’s drive to the neighbouring cities of  Bungo-Ono and Usuki. It’s a 10-minute stroll from Taketa Prepare Station. So even when you determine to maneuver round Oita by trains, it’s nonetheless handy to get to. 

It’s additionally positioned near Nagayu Onsen — the largest onsen in Taketa on the foot of Mount Kuju.

A scrumptious vegetarian breakfast at Hostel Cue!

There are each shared dorms (from ¥3080/night time) and cosy privates (from ¥6000/night time). Should you go for a breakfast bundle, do inform the house owners beforehand of any dietary preferences! 

For a standard dinner repair, stroll 5 minutes to Tomoshu. They serve specialty eel, Enoha sushi, and Kabosu soba!

Price: Non-public rooms from ~¥6000/night time 
Tackle: 560-1 Taketamachi, Taketa, Oita 878-0012, Japan

Day 2: Bungo-Ono & Usuki

Harajiri Waterfall (Oita’s “Niagara Falls”)

The curved facade of the Harajiri Fall is reminiscent of the particular Niagara in Canada.

Harajiri Falls is commonly dubbed by locals because the “Niagara Falls” of Oita — and it’s simple to see why.

It may get a bit chilly throughout the winter however in hotter months, the huge open area turns into a main spot for picnic-goers. Spring (March – Could) is the perfect time to go to because the Sakura timber scattered across the waterfall begin to bloom. 

Price: Free
Opening hours: 24 hours (greatest to go earlier than sundown)
Learn how to get there: 15-min drive from Taketa Station or 8-min drive from Ogata Station. (Google Maps)

Inazumi Underwater Cave

The suppressed Geography geek in me was geek-ing, exhausting! Previous to 1978, nobody had ever seen the within of Inazumi! The cave was shaped 300 million years in the past and was submerged for 300,000 years after the volcanic eruption of Mount Aso.

At present, you’ll discover a 2km-long underwater cave system product of twists, turns, pockets of pure water, and prehistoric-looking rock formations making it an excellent enjoyable area to discover. 

Can you see the smiley face?

For added enjoyable, you’ll be able to e-book a sauna expertise, on-site. The proprietor will even prepare so that you can dip into the 16°C cave water afterward! Snorkelling and diving periods for freshmen to superior divers are additionally open for pre-booking when you’re seeking to enterprise even deeper into the cave!

Entrance charge: ¥1,500/pax 
Opening hours: 9AM – 5PM
Learn how to get there: 25-min drive from Harajiri Waterfalls (Google Maps)

Usuki’s Stone Buddhas

These 61 Stone Buddhas are believed to be carved into the cliffs of Usuki over 1000 years in the past and declared a Nationwide Treasure in 1995. 

I discovered myself actually having fun with the serenity of this little park and particularly appreciated the audio information that may be performed on any cell gadget that may learn a QR code. 

*Professional-tip: Come throughout Sakura season to be greeted by the beloved pink blooms.

Drop ¥100 into the field and have a go at studying your fortune for 2024. My forecast wasn’t nice however not less than it says that Soy Sauce is my fortunate potion for the 12 months — good factor I can discover a great deal of this made regionally in Usuki!

Price: ¥550/pax
Opening hours:
9AM – 5PM
Learn how to get there: Take route 502 if driving from Inazumi Underwater Cave. (Google Maps)

Lunch at Usami

I labored up fairly an urge for food after monitoring down Buddhas. Fortunate for me, proper on the backside of the hill, is Usami — a restaurant that prides itself on utilizing regionally sourced components. 

Enjoyable reality: Usuki Metropolis manufactures its personal soil combine with which numerous natural and native greens are grown.

All the greens used on this Seasonal Vege Meal had been organically grown in Usuki!

The flavour profile of every dish was distinctive, to say the least. And the freshness of the components positively shone by means of. As a pescatarian/vegetarian, it could be a deal with to have meals like this every single day.

Again in Singapore, locations that solely use clear components are sometimes a feat to seek out or not simply accessible. If solely rising natural greens was extra generally practised on our Little Purple Dot!

Price: ~¥2000 for a Seasonal Vege Meal
Opening hours: 11AM – 3PM (final order 2:30PM), Wed – Solar 
Learn how to get there: It’s a standalone constructing proper beside the Stone Buddha ticketing counter. (Google Maps)

Kintsugi at Usukiyaki

The cup I chosen had a chipped edge!

Usukiyaki is a ceramics studio that has essentially the most ridiculously wonderful view of Usuki’s mountains. I’ve heard of Kintsugi since a few years again and was so comfortable I received to strive it at Usukiyaki. 

Initially of the Kintsugi expertise, I used to be requested to pick a chunk of ceramic that has a flaw. Over the span of an hour, I used to be guided by a Kintsugi grasp to restore this injury utilizing Kintsugi methods.

My Kintsugi grasp stated I used to be so good that he couldn’t make enjoyable of me. However I feel he was simply being good cos proper after he stated that he helped sand down the jagged edges I missed out 😂. Both approach, it was all good enjoyable!

I even received to take residence the top–product and a DIY Kintsugi package. 

Price: ~¥11,000/pax (contact them to verify costs and reserve your slot!)
Learn how to get there: Proper throughout the road from Usami. You’ll see a makeshift bridge that crosses over a bit stream. (Google Maps)

Usuki — UNESCO Inventive Metropolis of Gastronomy

The ruins of Usuki Citadel that was then constructed above sea degree.

Lots of the cities in Oita had been as soon as dominated by Lords. Usuki was one of many only a few cities dominated by an overtly Christian Lord, Sori Otomo, between 1530 – 1587. 

Enjoyable reality: Buddhism was the principle faith throughout these instances so having a ruler who was overtly Christian is exclusive to Usuki. 

The city is now recognized for its specialty pufferfish delicacies, locally-produced greens, and fermented merchandise reminiscent of soy sauce and miso. In 2021, Usuki was topped UNESCO’s Metropolis of Gastronomy in 2021.

Whereas strolling alongside Usuki’s streets, I had the pleasure of assembly this pretty girl of Kani Shoyu. She’s been working this soy sauce store because the Nineteen Seventies (and sure, that’s an image of her on the money register)!

I received three travel-sized bottles of soy sauce right here (¥1000) and was gifted with a sachet of miso paste!

Enjoyable reality: Hearth extinguishers alongside the road have little QR codes on the perimeters you can scan to learn a brief folklore or native spooky story!

Usuki Metropolis Council makes it some extent to protect the standard structure of its buildings (as they need to, as a result of the previous city look is simply beautiful)! Strolling alongside the streets of this city felt like I used to be transported again in time. 

*Professional-tip: Come throughout the weekends as many companies shut mid-week. 

Kani Shoyu
Opening hours:
9AM – 5PM, Wed – Mon
Learn how to get there: 5 min stroll from the ruins of Usuki Citadel. (Google Maps)

The place to Keep in Beppu, Oita 

Exhausted from a day of searching for issues to do round Oita, I lastly received to Beppu Amanek Inn and referred to as it an evening. 

The resort contains two separate buildings side-by-side. One is the principle constructing — Amanek. Whereas the opposite is the place I stayed in — Amanek Inn. The latter is the extra inexpensive choice however comes with the identical entry to facilities such because the rooftop pool, onsen, and buffet space.

After making tea and taking a sizzling bathe, I assumed I’d crash. However the attract of Beppu received to me and I ended up scouring the full of life streets for meals!

The employees had been actually accommodating to my pescatarian weight loss program and ready a steamed vegetable dish throughout breakfast. 

Should you’re questioning what’s there to eat in Beppu, take a look at Ichiriki for BBQ meat or Itto-ryu Ramen for halal native spicy ramen — each locations are really useful by locals

For breakfast the subsequent day, I popped by the resort’s eating space. Tables should be pre-booked the day earlier than on the reception! 

The rooftop pool and onsen deserve a particular point out because the views, particularly throughout dawn, are spectacular!

Price: From ~¥11,000 (incl. breakfast)
Tackle: 6-35 Ekimae Honmachi, Beppu, Oita 874-0934, Japan

Day 3: Beppu & Usa

Beppu Ropeway

Beppu Ropeway is without doubt one of the principal points of interest in Beppu! The ropeway (or cable automotive) takes you as much as Mount Tsurumi which is sort of the mid-point between Mount Yufu, Beppu prefecture, and Oita prefecture.

After a 10-minute journey as much as 1300 metres above sea degree, you’ll be on Mount Tsurumi! It was fairly chilly up there (~1°C), fortunate I had hand heaters in my pockets! Comply with the indicators to Mount Yufu viewing spot and marvel on the hoarfrost — frozen water vapour that appears like tiny crystallised flowers.

There are different paths to the completely different viewing areas so I took my time to go to every one. Vehicles are available in 20-minute intervals however you’ll be able to spend so long as you’d like up there!

Price: ¥1,800 (round-trip)
Opening hours: 9AM – 5:30PM

Beppu’s Hells

The Umi Jigoku or the Sea Hell.

There are seven big onsens (or “hells”) scattered round Beppu and every of them has a unique attribute. They may come in numerous colors and consistencies as a consequence of various chemical reactions. To not be confused with onsens, these “hells” boil at 100°C and aren’t for dipping!

The Umi Jigoku is the biggest one and is a must-visit. The positioning of Umi Jigoku additionally has a everlasting exhibition the place you’ll be able to be taught a bit bit extra in regards to the historical past of the “hells”. 

The Akaike Jigoku.

Situated on the identical website is  Akaike Jigoku which is shiny purple as a result of presence of iron. The stark distinction is odd given the proximity to the massive, blue, Umi Jigoku. I suppose some issues about nature, we’ll by no means perceive!

The mud-based Bozu Jigoku giving off zen vibes. 

Out of all of the seven, essentially the most spectacular ones really useful by locals are the Umi Jigoku and Bozu Jigoku. I made a decision to pop by Bozu Jigoku which, turned out to be my favorite! I beloved the muted colors of the mud towards the luxurious inexperienced timber. 

Except you’ve put aside a whole day to discover all seven hells, I personally advocate shopping for particular person tickets to go to the websites of Umi Jigoku and Bozu Jigoku. 

Price: ¥450/pax for every jigoku
Opening hours: 8AM – 5PM
Learn how to get there: 17 min drive from Amanek Inn

“Hell”-Steamed Delicacies for Lunch

“Hell”-steamed delicacies refers to meals that’s been steamed utilizing the warmth from sizzling springs! From combined seafood platters to pizza, all the pieces may be cooked utilizing this technique.

On high of this already mind-blowing idea, the restaurant takes it one step additional by providing sizzling foot baths so you’ll be able to get pleasure from a soothing onsen dip over dinner! 

There are a number of local-recommended eating places round Beppu that provide this expertise to travellers. This explicit place, Chinetsu Kanko Labo Enma, is one in every of them. 

Price: ~¥2,250/pax
Opening hours: 10AM – 7PM

Sake at Koku No Kura

The inexperienced bottle is ‘spicy’ sake whereas the white one is ‘candy’!

A part of the Wakabotan model, Koku No Kura is a Sake Brewery positioned within the quiet city of Usa, Oita! Should you’re searching for one ultimate hidden gem in Kyushu, that is it!

I got here for a distillery tour and realized quite a bit in regards to the sake-making course of. Then I stayed for sake tasting! I beloved the heat from the ‘spicy’ sake but additionally sort of appreciated the sweetness of the opposite one — it was very easy to drink.

The big vary of sakes and craft beers out there for buy at Koku No Kura make for an important reward. I’d have gotten a bottle of every if I had extra baggage area.

You’ll should make preparations with the brewery when you’d like a tour of the distillery or a sake and craft beer tasting. However when you’d like to hang around on the cafe earlier than catching a prepare out of Oita, you’ll be able to drop by anytime throughout opening hours. 

*Professional-tip: For many who are driving, get a glass of Amazake as an alternative! It’s a non-alcoholic by-product of the sake-making course of and doubles as a beauty-drink. 

Entrance charge: Free
Opening hours: 10AM – 5PM, closed on Wed
Learn how to get there: From Beppu, take route 387 to Usa. It’s a few 40-minute drive. (Google Maps)

Getting Again to Fukuoka

Usa Station is just some minutes’ drive away from Koku No Kura Sake Brewery, so I headed there and hopped on a prepare again to Fukuoka! 

In contrast to the Yufu Scenic Prepare to Oita, this 4:49PM Sonic Restricted Categorical was full of workplace staff. So I like to recommend reserving a seat for an additional ¥1,1500! The journey was mega comfy. I loved sundown views from my window seat and a couple of hours flew by earlier than I realised I used to be again in Fukuoka.

Price: Free with JR Move or ¥2,000 for a single ticket

One Evening in Fukuoka

Should you’re catching an early flight out of Fukuoka Airport, staying an evening close to Hakata Subway Station in Fukuoka makes complete sense. 

I allowed myself some restoration time at Lodge Hakata Forza — it’s 2 minutes away from the subway and it takes lower than an hour to get to Fukuoka Aiport’s Worldwide Terminal from the resort.

The very best half in regards to the room is the again massager! I fell asleep inside minutes of switching it on. Plus, breakfast begins at 6AM — good timing for a chunk earlier than catching a morning flight.

Price: From ~¥12,800 (incl. breakfast)
Learn how to get there: Exit Hakata Station the place the taxi ready space is. Stroll 2 minutes to Hakataekichūōgai 3-gōsen road (博多駅中央街3号線). (Google Maps)

For me, visiting Oita has positively made me see a seemingly acquainted nation with contemporary eyes. I hope the identical may be stated for you!

With limitless onsen spots in Oita and a bounty of hidden gems and issues to do in Kyushu, this quieter a part of Japan has many extra hidden gems to uncover. The subsequent time you’re planning a Japan itinerary to Osaka, or Tokyo even, why not enterprise a bit additional out, you by no means know what you may discover!

Which different elements of Japan would you wish to discover?  Tell us within the remark part beneath!

This submit was delivered to you by Tourism Oita as a part of a media familiarisation journey.

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