OITA, an Adventurer’s Paradise
Tucked away on the east coast of Japan’s southern island of Kyushu, Oita Prefecture is often unfairly overlooked. Scratch at the surface to find deep forests, moss-covered temples, and steam that seems to rise from the fiery pits of hell. It’s a mostly untouched part of Japan where hot springs run deep and ancient legends stay alive.
Enjoy hiking through dark forests and across high mountains through the Sobo-Katamuki-Okue Biosphere Reserve, a burgeoning expanse of approximately 240,000 hectares that protects many rare flowers, trees, and animals — including the curious Japanese serow. With many hiking courses to choose from, ranging from one hour to several days, there is a hiking challenge for beginners and experts alike.
Oita’s Kunisaki area is home to Rokugo-Manzan, an ancient esoteric mix of Shinto, Buddhism and mountain worship that is still practiced to some extent today. At Futago Temple, located on the Kunisaki peninsula’s highest peak Mount Futago, you can see how these spiritual beliefs converge seamlessly. Though the temple is at first glance similar to others in Japan, further exploration of Futago Temple’s vast grounds will tell a different story.
Both Beppu and Yufuin are world-renowned for their hot springs, offering both private and public baths across the cities. In Beppu you can also experience the seven “hells”, a collection of hot springs with mysterious properties. While these are too hot to have a bath in, their beautiful colors and characteristics – ranging from blood red to a milky turquoise – are a fascinating look at nature up close. For a unique take on a hot spring bath, head to Beppu Kaihin Sunayu. Here you’ll be buried in sand heated by hot spring water for up to 15 minutes, while you relax and wash the ocean waves lap at the shore. Those with tattoos needn’t worry, either —Beppu has a host of tattoo-friendly hot springs, and you can even pick up a convenient map listing them all when you’re there.
Oita has a slew of activities, nature escapes and cultural experiences to explore, so what are you waiting for?