Oita, Japan: What To Do And Where To Go | CoolJapan

There are times when we travel that we just want to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of the city and spend a relaxing time somewhere more secluded. Oftentimes, we’d find ourselves in smaller towns where life feels slower, allowing us to appreciate life and experience a little more. If you’re one of those wanting to escape city life for a bit, we’ve got the perfect destination for you: Oita Prefecture on Kyushu Island. 

Exploring Oita Prefecture in Kyushu

beppu onsen

The famous hot springs of Beppu. (Photo from: Kyushu Tourism Association)

A coastal prefecture that boasts of its onsens (hot springs), history and delicious food, Oita is also known for the famous “hells” of Beppu. Off the beaten path, Oita is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. Here are some recommendations for your Oita adventure!

Visit the Takasu Suspension Bridge Park (Usa City)

A place where nature and architecture meet, the Takasu Suspension Bridge Park (Takasutsuribashi Park) in Usa City is where you can find a 132.5-meter-long pedestrian slope bridge that connects the Kamihaita district to the ancient Takasu Kannon-do. This suspension bridge was built using the Kakezukuri architectural style, which makes use of both natural and man-made structures to keep the bridge balanced.

Walking on the bridge is not for the faint-hearted though, as its entire length sits above the Yakkangawa River. But once you’re on it, the nerves will fade and you’ll be left with an awe-struck witnessing the beauty of nature around you.

Try the famous Honzen cuisine (Usuki City)

Travel back in time and indulge in cuisine made for samurais in this well-known restaurant. Kiraku-an, located in Usuki City, has been preparing the special Honzen cuisine — one of the three basic Japanese cooking styles — since 1878. This type of cuisine was once served to the samurais of the city, including the Inaba feudal clan who ruled the area for over two centuries. The clan considers this cuisine as part of their samurai ceremonies.

Kiraku-an offers various food selections for visitors to try, but their specialty? A blowfish course. You don’t need to worry about safely eating blowfish, known locally as fugu, in Japan. Fugu handlers undergo rigorous training to ensure a safe culinary experience.

Interact with cats on Cat Island (Sakai City)

Are you an animal lover? If you happen to be one, you’ll enjoy this experience in Oita. In Sakai City, there is a place they call Cat Island, and it is what its name implies. Officially known as Fukashima, Cat Island is a place where the cat population is more than that of humans! There is even a local inn that allows you to stay overnight on the island and experience various activities including miso-making and cat tours.

Beyond its charming cat community, Fukashima also offers stunning coral reefs, perfect for snorkelling in shallow waters. The vibrant blue hues and surrounding greens make this a must-visit when exploring the region.

View significant art pieces at the Oita Prefectural Art Museum (Oita City)

The Oita Prefectural Art Museum (OPAM) is filled with artworks made throughout the centuries. Over 5,000 pieces of art are displayed in the museum, preserved and taken care of like treasures, signifying the rich history of the region. Works from artists such as Tanomura Chikuden (1777-1835), Fukuda Heihachiro (1892-1974) and Yoshimura Masunobu (1932-2011) fill the halls of OPAM.

These art pieces are housed in the building – inspired by bamboo weaving, which is a local craft in the region – designed by world-renowned Japanese architect Shigeru Ban. 

Explore the “hells” of Beppu (Beppu City)

Oita Prefecture is home to the Beppu hells, a collection of several differently-coloured onsens (hot springs) located around Beppu City. Located in Beppu’s Kannawa and Kamegawa regions, these hot springs – known as Jigoku – expel steam, hot mud and gas, earning their name “hells” due to their unsettling nature for people in ancient times.

While visitors cannot bathe in these hot springs — as temperatures can reach up to 99 degrees Celsius —  you can still explore and see the Seven Hells of Beppu through a tour. The Jigoku Meguri, a tour bus, will take you to all seven onsens. The entrance fee to the Seven Hells of Beppu costs JPY2,200 for adults and JPY1,000 for children. You can also visit each hot spring individually for JPY400 each.

Note that only Japanese guides are available on the aforementioned tours. However, several operators offer English tours at various prices.

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