9 Best Things to Do in Oita Prefecture - From Hellish Onsen to Serene Japanese Temples

Located on the eastern coast of Kyushu, Oita Prefecture is known as the hot spring capital of Japan, having the highest output of geothermal water in the country. However, there is far more to the prefecture than just hot springs. In this article, we cover some of the best sights and foods of Oita Prefecture that every visitor ought to know. From the classic Beppu Onsen to the historic city of Kitsuki, there’s sure to be something for everybody.


Things to Do

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Beppu Onsen: Discover What Hell Looks Like

Beppu Onsen is one of the most famous hot spring areas in all of Japan thanks to its water output, which is the largest among all onsen regions of Japan, and the sheer variety of hot springs it has. One of its most famous attractions is its seven “hells,” which are hot springs that got their moniker for being dangerously hot in temperature. Since they are not too far away from each other, it’s not uncommon to see tourists visit all of them at once. Beppu Onsen is also home to a variety of culinary delights cooked using the local hot spring water or steam, as well as sand baths down by the local beach.

Takasakiyama Natural Zoological Garden: See Macaques in Their Natural Habitat

Located on top of Mt. Takasaki in northwest Oita, Takasakiyama Natural Zoological Garden is less of a zoo and more of a reserve for the over 1,200 wild Japanese macaques that call it home. Visitors are able to see them roam freely throughout the premises, doing what monkeys usually do. One of the highlights is feeding time, which happens every 30 minutes and is always accompanied by a horde of hungry macaques. There’s also a small museum, souvenir shops, and a cafe, so there’s plenty of ways to occupy your time. If you do decide to pay a visit, just make sure you don’t bring food or any items that can easily get taken away. The monkeys are wild and have taken stuff from visitors in the past!

Harajiri Falls: Admire the Niagara Falls of Japan

This waterfall is nicknamed the “Niagara Falls of Japan” for its similar horseshoe shape, though size-wise it is quite a bit smaller at 20 meters high and 120 meters wide. Unlike most waterfalls, the surrounding flatlands means that you’re able to view the waterfall from the top down. As if that unique vantage point wasn’t enough, there’s also a suspension bridge where you can get a panoramic view of the entire waterfall area! For both its distinctive appearance and location, it is registered as one of Japan’s top 100 waterfalls. We recommend visiting after the rainy season, as it looks the best when the water level is high. April is also a nice time to visit - you can snap a picture of tulip fields with the waterfall in the background.

Kuju Flower Park: Smell the Flowers

Located at the base of the Kuji Mountains in west Oita, Kuju Flower Park is home to over 500 varieties of flowers and plants that, thanks to their different blooming times, create vivid carpets of flowers all year long (excluding winter). There’s also a greenhouse where you can view tropical plants, gift shops selling all manner of local souvenirs, and a decent number of restaurants and food stalls to sate just about anyone. Though Kuju Flower Park isn’t very large, it does offer a smattering of great photo opportunities which are made even better thanks to the majestic Kuju Mountains in the backdrop. It is recommended to visit in May, since that’s when a lot of the flowers will be in bloom, but visit on a weekday if you can to avoid the lines.

Usa Jingu Shrine: Dive Into Japan’s History

With over 1,000 years of history, Usa Jingu is the principal shrine of Hachiman, the divine protector of Japan. There are over 40,000 subsidiary shrines throughout the country, so it is easy to imagine how distinguished Usa Jingu is. Despite its prestige, its grounds are surprisingly serene and free of visitors, allowing for a leisurely exploration of all the well-preserved buildings within it. We especially recommend the magnificent main shrine building “Honden,” which is a national treasure. Allot yourself at least an hour to fully discover everything it has to offer and ensure you come early in the morning, as the shops tend to close early.

Kitsuki Castle Town: Stroll Around in a Kimono

Kitsuki is a castle town that’s often referred to as a “Little Kyoto” due to its traditional townscape that harks back to Japan’s samurai days and strong promotion of kimono culture, with discounts being offered to those that dress up and walk around town in kimono. What makes it stand out from the crowd of Little Kyotos is its one-of-a-kind landscape: the whole castle town stands on slopes, with samurai residences to the north and south and the main commercial district sandwiched between them. Take in its unique landscape from the Shioya-no-Saka Slope, which often appears on TV as an amazing photo spot, or visit Kitsuki Castle itself, which is not only the smallest castle in Japan but grants opportunities to take photos while dressed in real samurai armor!

Futago-ji Temple: Find Serenity in Oita’s Nature

Built in 718, Futago-ji Temple doesn’t get a lot of visitors because of its secluded location on the slopes of Mt. Futago. However, this is what also makes it an amazing destination for those who enjoy exploring Japan’s history, culture, and nature in relative peace. The two Nio statues at its entrance are the largest in Oita Prefecture as well as the temple’s most famous sight. Beyond, you’ll find the main temple complex which houses several prefectural cultural properties. If you don’t enjoy busy places, perhaps Futago-ji Temple would be right up your alley.

Bungo Beef: Savor Award-Winning Japanese Beef

Bungo beef is an Oita specialty as well as one of the best brands of wagyu beef you can get in Japan. It’s robust in flavor and melt-in-your-mouth tender. Have it in hot pot, barbecued, or even in another one of Oita’s specialty dishes, the Kokonoe Yume Burger, which is only sold at a limited number of outlets in Kokonoe Town!

Learn more about this marvelous wagyu beef:
https://oita-wagyu.jp/ (Japanese)
https://oita-wagyu.jp/wp-r5au9w/wp-content/themes/oita-wagyu/lang/index.html (English)

Matama Coast: Take a Photo That’ll Last a Lifetime

Photographers love flocking to Matama Coast because of its amazing sunset view, which is actually listed as one of the top 100 sunsets in all of Japan. During low tide, the ocean water doesn’t completely ebb away, instead gathering in pools of water that reflect the sun as it sets. Enjoy this one-of-a-kind scene from a small cafe on the coast that serves a variety of delicious, inexpensive eats.

Visit Oita, Then the Rest of Kyushu

Oita Prefecture may not be as well known as Osaka or Hiroshima amongst tourists, but it has a wealth of sightseeing spots and activities that anyone can enjoy. If you find any of our Oita choices interesting, do check out what the rest of Kyushu has to offer as well.

Visit Kyushu Official Website: https://www.visit-kyushu.com/en/


Thumbnail credit: PIXTA

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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

About the author

Yuri I.
A third culture kid that is forever searching for a permanent home. When I'm not busy translating or writing, I'm working on my voice, taking photographs, watching anime, and gobbling up everything in sight. For me, curiosity never ends.

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