The Hells of Beppu Japan are an iconic part of the island of Kyushu; once feared and now revered, these Hells are a must-see.
Our family adventures have taken us to many places around Japan, none of which has had a name quite like “The 7 Hells of Beppu.” Not to fear! The Hells, or “Jigoku,” are hot water holes, displaying bubbling mud and colorful water similar to what you would find in Yellowstone National Park in the United States, and there is nothing diabolical about them!
Beppu, Japan is on the island of Kyushu in Oita Prefecture. Surrounded by volcanic mountains, which I love, this area is a designated National Site of Scenic Beauty. There are several onsens and spa resorts in the area. Every year in late July, the largest fireworks display in Kyushu is held in the Beppu Bay, sure to be a phenomenal sight!
The size of the city surprised us as it was much bigger than we thought. We imagined a little town similar to Yellowstone, but the city has over 100,000 people and hosts a monkey park, amusement park, waterfall and several golf courses that bring tourists to the area each year; it is a well-established metropolitan area.
7 Hells of Beppu
When visiting the Hells of Beppu you need to decide if you want to see them all. By all I mean 7 of the 8 that are a part of The Beppu Jigoku Association. If you do, then buy a ticket pack at the first one you visit and it will save you money rather than paying for entrance at each “Jigoku.” They give you some pamphlets with maps and information on each of the pools, then you go explore! The 8th Hell is in the area as well. Make sure to check out the map at the end to see its location.
One of the pamphlets had some great information about how the Hells of Beppu, Japan have been treated through the years. A long time ago the people were afraid of this area; they thought it was cursed. It was beautifully described in one of the pamphlets by Kon Toukou, a writer and Buddhist priest:
“Heaven, as depicted by Dante, John Milton, or William Blake, seems neither beautiful nor interesting at all to me.
“However, I find the visions of hell conjured by these literary masters to be tremendously interesting. The cruelty of beings so vividly expressed in them that I almost feel that I would prefer to go to hell rather than heaven. In this day and age, however, the heavens and hells described by these great poets and writers no longer evoke yearning or fear amongst many people.
“Nevertheless, if you visit Beppu you will be confronted by a vision of eight great hells appearing before you and these are certainly terrifying hells. Hot water gushes forth from the ground, roaring and rumbling fiercely, as numerous enormous crocodiles jostle violently with each other. Though you may not be able to see demons, it is clear that one false step, one slip, will bring you to a rapid demise. When I consider that these hells must surely be hotter than the reported cauldrons of hell, all my longing for hell fades swiftly away.
Human beings need to experience hell in this life at least once, to empty themselves of their superfluous accumulations, to reflect on their past conduct, and to contemplate the path ahead. For this important purpose, I highly recommend a visit to Beppu, to witness the many aspects of hell. Only those who have been through hell and lived to tell the tale are worthy to be called true human beings.”
With that said, we introduce the 7 Hells of Beppu, Japan.
The most famous “Jigoku” this cobalt blue water is 98 celsius and absolutely stunning. Lily pads grow in the nearby greenhouse that can support small children!
Hot gray mud burbles and pops as gases exit; the bubbles can be compared to the shaven heads of monks.
They would use the fumes of this location to cook food, which is where it got its name. There was a foot bath here that the kids enjoyed as well as a place where you could drink the hot water. It was very salty.
Dozens of crocodiles fill this area, making this the favorite Hell for Royce and Jeannie to visit. They were mesmerized by all the crocodiles lying around sunbathing. The temperature of the water here makes it a great place to breed crocodiles, supposedly!
The colorless water that naturally spouts from the ground meets the pond waters and turns a bluish white.
The blood-red color clay makes this a notable Hell to visit. The use the clay to treat skin diseases using traditional methods.
Similar to Old Faithful of Yellowstone National Park, this geyser spouts out boiling water for about 8 minutes at regular times throughout the day. When we stopped by, it had just started and the workers were nice enough to quickly usher us in so we didn’t miss it! The gardens around here were in full bloom when we were there, too. It was a beautiful place to enjoy a walk and take pictures.
Sand Bath in Beppu Japan
After seeing pictures of the sand bath in Japan, I had to do this. I was so excited and we woke up early so we would be the first in line to do it.
There are two areas under an awning that have sand and fill with boiling hot water. It’s on the beach overlooking the ocean. Once they drain the water, you walk out in your loaned yukata, a light kimono. Then you go outside to the area where you wait your turn them to bury you in the sand. The warm sand felt so good to get into, especially as it was a bit chilly outside.
Once I was in the sand, I started to feel a bit anxious. It felt like a heavy blanket was on me, which normally would be quite pleasant, but then my nose started to itch and there was nothing I could do about it. Then my nose started to run and, again, there was nothing I could do about it. It was a good exercise for me to use my breathing techniques to calm down. It’s ironic since I was looking forward to this experience and it didn’t go as I imagined. I would 100% do it again!
Pro Tip: Make sure to clear your nose and get rid of any itches before you lie down!
Once you finish, you climb out, return to the onsen, rinse off and enjoy the hot waters. The nicest Japanese ladies were there with me. One of them was a sand bathing expert, but they were both very helpful in letting me know what I should do and where I should go.
Plan your trip to Beppu Japan:
We got into town late, after doing a night visit to Takachiho Gorge, then woke up in the morning to explore the whole day.
The Beppu Jigoku Association Tour consists of 7 of the 8 Hells; the Yama Jigoku is the 8th. It is a smaller Jigoku that features a small zoo. Whether you visit all 8 or just a few, it’s as Kon Toukou said: you haven’t lived until you’ve been through hell!