The Town of Onsens (and the Smell of Rotten Eggs)Edit
Beppu (別府市 beppu-shi?) is a very famous tourist destination among Japanese people. Most of the tourists who come here are salarymen and couples who want to stare at each other lovingly over the fiery Hells, but this still means there are sooo many other things to do here.
The main one of these things is onsen. There are lots of onsens here. I'm not sure how many, are also 3 sand baths which many people come to take. I like them although getting burried alive in hot sand is not for everyone. One of these is in Takegawara Spa, which in the middle of Beppu near the famous Hit Parade Nightclub (more on that later). This sand bath is really nice although the onsen here is very hot (no, I am not stupid but some onsens are the "burn your skin off" variety whilst others are the "let's sit here for 10 minutes variety"...this sand bath is one of the former). The building here is very beautiful and it's a great way to experience old Japan.
Another sand bath is in Hyotan Onsen in Kannawa. Although the onsen is good, this sand bath is not so great because you have to bury yourself in the sand. The Seaside Sand Baths on Route 10 are where you can get buried by others while laying on the beach. Also in Beppu, there is a mud onsen on Route 500 just before you get to Myoban. This is a great experience; the mud feels good (maybe a little too good for the man standing next to me and Sophie if you get my meaning). You might want to go when its dark because it's mixed so there are quite a few pervs, but it's good fun and you get to feel like a real life hippopotamus!
Suginoi Palace is also very nice, if a little expensive. This hotel has many beautiful onsens and you can make it a day trip as it has a swimming pool complex with slides and ten-pin bowling available as well. It also has lots of restaurants and gift shops so people tend to come to this hotel and not move!
Beppu has two theme parks. One is called Rakutenchi - it has great views over the city although it is designed more for children. The other is called Kijima and is on the road to Yufuin though you can get there easily by bus from Beppu. In the winter (mid-November to March), they have a cool outdoor skating rink. I would consider the ride at Kijima scary, but to be fair, I was scared of the Harmony Land rollercoaster. However, Kijima does have lots of proper grown-up rides. In regards to Harmony Land, it is just outside Beppu. This is where you can frolic with Kitty-chan. The average age of customers is 4 but nevertheless it is great if you are into the whole Kitty-chan thing and it is a good thing to do in Japan. It takes about 20 minutes by car from Beppu. Also, the African Safari Park is on the road to Ajimu (Route 500). There are lots of signposts for it.
Near Beppu, you can also see monkeys at Mount Takasaki, go to the aquarium at Umi Tamago or take a cable car up Tsurumi-dake where the views are amazing! Every year they hold a Cold Endurance Competition at the top where participants enter contests including kakigori eating, threading needles with numb hands and hanging onto a block of ice! So, as you can see, there are a million reasons to come to Beppu!
Asia Pacific University (known simply as APU) is the source of a large foreigner presence in Beppu. Due to all these international academics, Beppu has one of the larger foreign populations in Japan!
- Cerchio is a fantastic pizza restaurant using a real wood-burning stove.
- Hot Mango (or Pulau Bali as it is sometimes known) is a restaurant in Kannawa on the Kyushu Odan Expressway, which is really close to the Umi Jigoku. If you drive up this road you are sure to see it as it has Balinese-type umbrellas outside. It is run by two former APU students and has really excellent food and is cheap too! You can get some great curries here and also nice satay and fruit juice. I would recommend this place to anyone coming to Beppu as it is one of the best restaurants I have eaten at in Japan.
- Big Bamboo, a Jamaican bar/restaurant is in the International Arcade opposite Tokiwa. It is a great place for lunch or a light meal and the Jamaican Jerk Chicken is yummmy! At lunchtime, the set is only 500 yen. Not only that, but this place also has regular nomihodais at a very reasonable price of 2500 yen on Saturday from 8pm-12pm (I think). During the week, it has a student "all you can drink" session as well as a men's night and a ladies' night. This place is good if you would like to experience a bar that is not Japanese. It's new, really nice inside and even has a DJ booth, VIP area and dance bar - whoohooo!! Drinks are reasonably priced!
- There is an Indian restaurant downstairs from Big Bamboo in the international arcade too. This restaurant is also new and run by former APU students. It has the best Indian food I have tasted in Japan. The service here is also excellent so if you are craving curry in Beppu then you know where to go!
Beppu has many snack bars and an incredible number of other dancing sexy-sexy type of places. If you want to go to these, then there are numerous pimps everywhere who will no doubt offer you lovely ladies. However if you would like to avoid these places, the following are recommendations of western type/normal places:
Hit Parade is an American 1950s club. If you would like a bizarre night, this is a wonderful place to come and feel like you have been sucked into a timewarp. It is also a great place to see the Japanese mindset when it comes to dancing too. An entrance fee of around 3000 yen means that you can drink all night, usually from 7pm till 1am, whilst watching a band perform live 50s music. There is also a food buffet, which is an attempt to soak up the alcohol, though more attractive to me is the fanta slushy machine that you can make frozen cocktails with. In this place when you sit down, they give you a bottle of whisky and a bottle of sake and whatever else you ask for. The Japanese people, however unlike the foreigners, remain well behaved. Hit Parade is next to Takegawara Onsen in the backstreets of Beppu.
Roots is another place in Beppu worth mentioning. It is a nightclub where you can dance although it is small. Sometimes Roots has events which can be checked out on digital Oita under club nights. These events are usually quite good as people go to these. Sometimes they are hiphop and reggae themed or sometimes Trance so you have to check the internet if you are fussy. They actually appear to have events a few times a month now which is good! Most of the rest of the time when there are no events, there is no one around, but it is good to go here if you have some buddies. Roots can be found just off the International Arcade in a snack building. Try not to get sucked into snack bar land which is lurking above and below this place as you may be charged a small fortune for drinks. You have to take the elevator here; I believe it is on the 3rd floor but I could be wrong!
Small Eye is a very nice venue which also sometimes has events. You can do a nomihodai here for a small price and watch lots of sports but I don't know what kind because I have only ever been there when there are events on. This is a very nice place though.
68 is a bar that a lot of the APU students patron. It's quite a small bar, but very lively, and really international. Most tourist don't know about it, but the few that stumble upon it find themselves staying in Beppu longer just because of this one aspect of the nightlife. Lots of western style and japanese style drinks are offered here, and most of the APU students are very friendly, and really talkative. It's normal to see a large group of them standing outside talking. There are regular DJs,
One Love is a Reggae bar in Beppu that is in the redlight district. This bar is really good, but has a 300 yen sit down fee. So its quite good if you don't want the noise of a busy bar such as 68 and you want to just relax and have a few drinks. Japanese Reggae artist often frequent this place. Most of them are local, but a few famous ones have patron this place before.
Speak Easy and Copper Ravens are both very cool bar/venues. Copper Ravens is bigger and cooler however. The only problem is that there are never any people there but if you have a group of friends, then you are good to go. Both bars are in an alley near Hit Parade.
Rhoda Marshall - ALT in Beppu 2004-2007