Beppu is located on Kyushu’s northeast coast. The city has a population of about 130,000. It is one of the world’s most geothermally active regions. Each day millions of gallons of near boiling water gush out of springs and are harnessed by resorts and pools. Beppu is one of Japan’s most popular onsen (hot springs) resorts.
We rode the Shinkansen, Nozomi 11 from Tokyo and connected with the Sonic 29 to get to Beppu. The Sonic Limited Express was a very colorful and comfortable train (although nothing can compare with the Nozomi). Food for sale is offered on carts pushed through the cars by attendants. The attendants will bow as they enter and leave the car.
On the Sonic we had a beautiful and graceful attendant who would bow as a stalk bending in a gentle breeze.
We stayed at a ryokan called Miyukiya, an old fashioned Japanese style inn with traditional atmosphere and appearance. It is easily accessed from the Beppu train station by the #10 & 20 buses (¥ 240).
You take off your shoes at the entry of the ryokan and put on a pair of slippers which you wear until you reach the entry area of your room. There you remove them before you step on the tatami mats.
Hot green tea was always available in our room.
The hospitality at Miyukiya made it a memorable stop on our travels. Our gracious hosts are shown below. They spoke about as much English as we spoke Japanese, but we managed to communicate quite well.
Breakfast and dinner at Miyukiya are something you would expect at a 5 star restaurant. We ate many things we had never seen or recognized as edible–lots of heads and raw things. Fish and vegetables were large parts of the meals. When I was unsure about what something was or how to eat it, communicating through gestures, our hostess would graciously show me how and tell me the Japanese name for it. Everything served was delicious, and I felt healthier than ever.
After dinner we would enjoy a traditional Japanese bath and a soak in Miyukiya’s geothermally heated pond.
Our ryokan was just a 10 minute walk (moving very slowly) from 7 of the 9 jigoku or hells. These are areas that spew sulphurous mud and form steaming lakes of various hues. For ¥ 2000 you can buy a ticket that gives entry to 9 of the jigoku. Each has something different. In some the main attraction is animals in hell (like too many zoos animals spend their lives in a concrete cell).
Beppu Utamaro Gallery
Among its many attractions Beppu is home to the Beppu Utamaro Gallery or sex museum. They have many examples of ukiyo-e and ancient sculpture. Unfortunately for us, due to it all being in kanji we don’t know just how ancient.
The museum is tended by two mild mannered old ladies offering a case full of dildos, costume uniforms and naughty videos for sale.