~ japan day 10: Beppu Jigoku ~

02 January 2006

last night, we planned to meet up with Jessi at 9:30 in the morning at Beppu Station. this morning, as i gazed at the scenic 2005 calendar hanging in our room, i realized that January 2nd in Japan is still considered as a national holiday. that means, the bus from APU won’t start running until 10, and Jessi won’t be able to get into the town until 10:30.

Jessi called from her school, letting us know that she was waiting for the bus that never came and finally came into the same realization. so, we ended up meeting her at 10:30. we bought some breakfast in a nearby Family Mart and ate them in the bus. in Japan, people are allowed to eat in the bus, but talking on cellphones is strictly forbidden. i thought it was weird… but the busses somehow could be kept clean…

so, now we’re off the famous Jigoku Onsen of Beppu, following what they called the Tour of Hell. there were nine Jigoku (literally translated as Boiling Hell) which are basically large natural hot springs. for some reasons, we can only visit eight of the Jigoku. these are not bathing onsen as the temperature of these onsens are very close to boiling temperature.


the first one we visited was the Yama Jigoku (Mountain Hell). it’s a steam of water coming out of rocks on the side of a mountain. there is also a small zoo which consists of an elephant, hippo, llamas, flamingos and monkeys. you can feed them with snacks sold in the area. it’s funny to see how lazy the animals are… the hippo was just laying on the side of its enclosure, opening its mouth, waiting for the visitors to throw the food into it. i think, what’s interesting about the zoo is that these animals don’t usually live in this kind of climate. they live in Africa, where it is hot. the idea is that the hot water from the dormant volcanoes around Beppu can provide the warmth for the animals to survive in Japan’s climate.

on the exit of every Jigoku complex, there is a stamp exclusive to each Jigoku. little kids can get a flyer map of the Jigokus with a space for the stamp. they can complete all 8 stamps by visiting all of the Jigokus. i didn’t get the map, so i stamped my notebook instead. upon exiting each Jigoku, i had to go in line with little kids to get my notebook stamped.


the next stop is the Umi Jigoku (Sea Hell). this Jigoku forms a large pond of water, which temperature was around 90-ish degree Celsius, pretty close to a boiling point. you can buy egg, boil it in the pond, and eat it. another neat thing about the Umi Jigoku is the color of the water is cobalt blue, resembling the sea, which is where the name came from. it was a beautiful “hell”.

next to the blue pond, there is a regular pond with a warm-ish water. this pond is much larger and between March and November, Amazonian Waterlilies grow on this pond. these are gigantic waterlilies which leaves can grow over a meter in diameter. they’re big and solid enough to sustain small child standing on the leaf. i’ve been wanting to see these waterlilies since i was in the 5th grade of elementary school… but this is December and i was a month late :(


Umi Jigoku also supplies the warm water for its greenhouse that contains a large pool of water full of tropical water-plants. there are also other tropical plants on the side of the greenhouse, like banana trees and orchid flowers. it’s cute to see Japanese tourists admiring banana trees… we have plenty of them in our backyard.

on the way to the next Jigoku, we saw a souped-up blue van. in my opinion, it looked ridiculous. the van looked like a squished Batmobil; roundy with many wings.


the next stop is the Oniishibouzu Jigoku. the name came from the gray-colored mud and ash boiling, making air bubbles that resembles the shaven head of Japanese monks. there were a few small hot springs in this complex, most of them are muddy gray.

in this Jigoku complex, just like in Umi Jigoku (but i forgot to mention), there is a feet onsen. it’s a small hot pool where you can sit around it and put your feet in to warm your body. grandpas and babies sat next to eachother to warm themselves up.

the first three Jigokus were right next to each other. the next two are down the hill, and still within walking distance.


the Kamado Jigoku, meaning Cook-Stove Hell, has a red demon (oni) as its mascot. there is a smoky opening on a pile of volcanic rock (with the statue of the Oni on top of it). that opening was supposed to be hot enough that people used to use it to cook their food. there are also many hot-spring ponds, which are quite colorful: red, white, muddy gray, muddy red… etc. the blue one is especially beautiful and scary at the same time. the side of the pond is covered with bright green substance, which makes the pond even more pretty. and there was a gigantic thermometer stuck on the side of the pond, showing the temperature which is merely a few centimeters from boiling point. there is a small shop near the exit where they sell food cooked on the hot springs, like the boiled eggs.


the next one is the Oniyama Jigoku, or Demon Hill Hell. there was only one pond, and it’s greenish orange in color and the wave in the pond, unlike any other Jigoku, was strong. it looked like the ocean wave. supposedly, the pressure from the steam was so strong that it can easily pull a train car.

the Oniyama Jigoku is also known for crocodile breeding ground. according to the sign, they imported the crocodile from Malaysia. one of the huts in the complex was dedicated for Malaysian Tourism… i guess the Oniyama Jigoku is funded by Malaysia.

on the way to the next Jigoku, we passed by a very posh ryokan. we then realized that Beppu attracted many local tourists with their onsen, and these local tourists stay in these fancy ryokans around the Kannawa Jigoku area. kinda like those shown in Japan Hour television in Singapore…


Shiraike Jigoku is located right next to the posh ryokan. within this complex, there are a few aquariums filled with tropical fresh water fish, like piranhas and arapaimas. i guess, once again, they breed these tropical animals using the natural heat of the hot springs.

Shiraike Jigoku means White Pond Hell. i couldn’t really capture the white-ness on the camera, but according to the sign, the water that sprang from the ground was originally colorless, like regular water. but as the temperature drops, the water changes color to white. neat, huh?


we had to take a bus to reach the last two of the Jigokus. unlike the high frequency of busses in Kyoto, Beppu’s busses come either every 30 minutes or every hour. after waiting for a while, we finally arrived at Chinoike Jigoku, which is a Blood Pond Hell. the whole pond was red and steaming… it looks awesome with its green surroundings. right next to it, there is a Koi pond, where the Koi swam around, warm and happy. it reminds me to the freezing Koi at the Nanzen-ji pool, staying still and huddling oin one corner of the pool. aw, how lucky you guys are compared to your Nanzen-ji buddies.

we spotted another feet onsen in this complex. in one corner, there is a fortune telling vending machine. cute!


the last Jigoku to visit was the Tatsumaki Jigoku or Tornado Hell. it is essentially a geyser that shoots hot water 20 meters up to the air every 25 minutes. it’s getting late and we wanted to visit Jessi’s campus before dark, so instead of waiting for the geyser to shoot up, we walked around the garden of the Tatsumaki Jigoku. the garden was full of palm trees and coconut trees. it looks strange to see coconut trees growing on the such high ground. just like the other Jigoku, the plants are watered with the hot-spring water.

then, i completed all 8 stamps from each Jigoku. we then wait for the bus to go to APU with 20 other tourists.

photo album: Japan Trip: Day 10 (2 January 2006).

~ comment (1) ~

At last I’ve seen APU and Jessi’s room before visiting her.
The Jigoku is also interesting. have to stay longer and enjoy one by one.

Mimi | 13 January 2006 - 12:12 | reply