Beppu, Oita – Kyushu’s Famous Hot Spring Spot!
To the southeast of Fukuoka, in neighboring Oita prefecture, you can find Beppu- a city famous for its steamy streets and abundant hot springs (onsen 温泉 in Japanese). In certain districts, the steam literally rises from grates in the ground! Two hours by bus, car, or train will bring you from Hakata Station in Fukuoka to this geothermal hotspot.
Beppu boasts the largest number of onsen wells (over 2,000), and most amount of hot spring water discharged (over 80,000 L/min), compared to any other place in Japan. With so many facilities around taking advantage of this natural phenomenon, it’s no wonder why Beppu is the perfect destination for those looking to submerge themselves in Japan’s hot spring scene.
If you are wondering what to do in Beppu… my answer would be to try out the different hot springs!
Aside from ordinary hot water baths, Beppu offers a handful of other specialty experiences. For example, there are mud baths (believe me I was surprised too), blue milky water baths, sand baths, foot baths, and herbal steam baths.
Aside from these, Beppu is also known for a few specialty springs so scalding and brightly colored that they are for viewing only. These springs are nicknamed the 7 Hells of Beppu and make up one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area.
Following an afternoon of exploring the Beppu Hells for myself, I decided to end the day with an herbal steam bath (mushiyu). I made my way to an ancient traditional sauna that had been in use for over 700 years! Here at Kannawa Steam Bath, I was able to relax atop a bed of fresh sekisho herbs and let the aromatic heat wash the day away. The entire experience was highly relaxing and different than any other I had done before. This kind of herbal steam bath is a must try for anyone visiting Beppu!
Kannawa Steam Bath (鉄輪むし湯) – Traditional Herbal Sauna
Kannawa Steam Bath (鉄輪むし湯) is the most popular place for an herbal steam bath in Beppu. According to history, a Buddhist monk founded this sauna in 1276. This location has been steaming up herbs for over 700 years! In addition to the steam bath, there is an indoor hot spring to relax in afterward. A great 2-for-1 deal ?! Outside the premises, a free footbath is also provided if you are just looking to rest your feet.
Getting There: If you are visiting Beppu’s famous Hells, you will find Kannawa Steam Bath just a few minutes walk from Shiraike Jigoku, the last of the Blue Hells. The Kannawa Bus Center is also conveniently nearby so you can easily take public transportation into the area.
Onsen type: Chloride spring
Address: Japan, 〒874-0046 Oita, Beppu, 鉄輪上１
Telephone Number: 0977673880
Hours: 6:30-17:30 (last entry)
Fee: ¥700 (steam bath and onsen). Yukata rental: ¥220, towel rental: ¥310
Private: no | Tattoos: accepted | Soap: provided
Japanese Onsen and Steam Bath: How To + Tips
After entering the building, the first thing you will need to do is buy tickets for the steam bath + onsen and rental gear from the vending machine. (English is available!) After inserting money, lights will indicate which items can be purchased. Press the buttons to print out your tickets and use the handle at the bottom of the machine to collect change if you have remaining balance.
As of 3/2021 the fee was ¥700 for the steam bath + onsen, ¥220 for a rental yukata, and ¥310 for a towel. (If you have an extra set of clothes you can use these instead of renting a yukata, but know that they will get very sweaty). Also, you can bring your own towel if you have one, something I recommend doing especially if you plan to visit different onsen as this will save you a couple hundred yen each time.
Hand your printed tickets to the staff and receive your rental gear.
Head to the changing rooms where hanging noren curtains designate which gender is which (red for women, blue for men). Double check before going in!
After removing your shoes, you will need to first undress and rinse your body in the shower area. If you have never taken a dip in one of Japan’s onsens, you may find the whole process a bit intimidating and strange as it is customary to rinse and bathe completely naked alongside the other guests. I understand that this can be a bit awkward, but just put your thoughts aside and go with it.
Once your body has been rinsed, towel off and put on your yukata / change of clothes. The staff will let you know when you can enter the steam room and will watch the clock to make sure you don’t stay past the recommended 10 minutes. Place your towel on a hot rock and lay down on top of the bed of leaves…
Once I laid down, I immediately started to relax. Deep breaths filled my nostrils with a fresh and herbal aroma. Slowly the heat in and around my body increased. I didn’t realize I was sweating until it began rolling off my body. Time was slow as my mind entered a semi-meditative state. I can now say that I know what a piece of chicken feels like as it steams…
Once you finish in the steam room, head outside and brush stray leaves from your clothes. Before soaking in the inner hot spring, you will need to wash yourself again before entering. Free shower amenities are provided by the facility so you don’t have to bring your own.
In the hot spring, you can relax for as long as you like. A few things to note though: keep your hair out of the water and refrain from sitting on the edge of the bath as these are onsen no-nos.
The water was piping hot, but again so relaxing. I stayed in the bath to soak up as much of the heat and minerals as I could, but after a while, it was time to cool down. Getting dressed and exiting the building, my body was so calm it felt as if I were in a trance...
*Tip: you can get very dehydrated while in the steam bath / hot spring, so make sure to drink plenty of liquids before and after! There is a vending machine inside the building if you need to buy.
Having access to both an herbal steam bath and hot spring at Kannawa Mushiyu was a great experience and I was surprised by its reasonable price! If you want to get out of your comfort zone and try something very unique and Japanese, then head over to Beppu and try this herbal steam bath too!
If you are looking for more things to do in Oita Prefecture, check out these other highlights from my travels!
- Bungo Beef – Oita’s specialty wagyu beef
- Steam Cooking: Jigoku Mushi Pudding and Onsen Eggs – (coming soon)
- 7 Hells of Beppu – (coming soon)
- Wonder Compass Tourist Center – (coming soon)
- Yufuin Yunotsubo Street – (coming soon)
- Myoban Yunosato Hot Spring – A relaxing and unique hot spring + steam bath experience!