The 10 Most Instagrammable Spots In Oita Prefecture

Famous as one of Japan's top prefectures for hot springs, Oita Prefecture in Eastern Kyushu is chock full of beautiful spots. From natural scenery to traditional Japanese townscapes and historic landmarks, there are so many great things to photograph here! If you enjoy traveling to scenic places and taking photographs, read on, because this article will introduce 10 of the most Instagrammable spots in Oita!

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Introducing Oita Prefecture, a Treasure Trove of Photo-worthy Sights and Scenery

Oita is a mountainous prefecture located on the eastern side of the island of Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan's 4 main islands. It remains off the radar of most international travelers but is well-known to Japanese people as a hot spring haven with some of the best waters in Japan. While this is true, it is also full of amazing and photo-worthy sights that are worth sharing on your social media feeds. This article will introduce 10 of the best.

Kuju Flower Park

Kuju Flower Park is made of several idyllic, sprawling flower gardens located in the rolling hills an hour from Oita city. From spring through autumn, nearly 5 million flowers of 500 species bloom across the park, and varying displays can be enjoyed in each of the unique areas including a Forest Area, Flower Field Area, and Wildflowers Area.

There are also 16 shops and restaurants located in the center of the park, offering gorgeous flower-related products and delicious local cuisine. Spend the day strolling through the flowers and soaking up the beauty of the blossoms set to the backdrop of stunning mountains. Different varieties of blooming flowers can be enjoyed throughout the year, but the park is known in particular for its lavender, which blooms from June to July, as well as its flower festival held each autumn!

Matama Beach

For one of the most beautiful sunsets anywhere, head to Matama Beach in Bungotakada. When the tide is low, a vast tidal flat is exposed with large, rippling tide pools that reflect the colors in the sky like a mirror. This combination of reflecting pools, the ocean, and mountains in the distance make for an unforgettable sunset and prime photo op.

Before you go, be sure to plan ahead and choose a day where the tide will be ideal for creating the reflecting pools. There's a local website in Japanese that recommends the best days and times each month, but it shouldn't be too tricky to decipher, even if you can't read Japanese: Best Times to See the Sunset.

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Yukemuri Observatory

The Yukemuri Observatory is a two-story observation deck that overlooks the town of Beppu, one of Japan's three most famous "onsen" (hot spring) areas. The name Yukemuri literally means "bath smoke" and refers to the steam wafting up from the bathhouses of the city's many "ryokan" (traditional Japanese inns) and hotels below. 

The view is beautiful when the sun is out but is particularly enchanting after sundown when the orange, red, green, and yellow lights of the various inns illuminate the steam from below. A visit to Oita would be remiss without a stop at Beppu, so when you're there, make your way to this observatory to snap some photos of this classic view of the city.

Lake Kinrin

Lake Kinrin is a small lake located in the town of Yufuin, another of Oita's well-known onsen areas. In comparison to Beppu, Yufuin is smaller and has a quaint mountain town atmosphere that makes it perfect for a special getaway.

"Kinrin" means "golden scales" in Japanese, and supposedly refers to the way the scales of the fish swimming in the water sparkle in the setting sun. However, the most popular time to take photos of the lake—and in particular the small shrine and floating torii gate located at one end—is in the early morning, when the steam from the hot spring water that flows into the lake creates a mystical fog over the lake and its surroundings.

Kitsuki Castle Town

Kitsuki Castle Town is a historic section of the city of Kitsuki with many wonderfully preserved samurai residences and other buildings, as well as Japan's smallest castle. Because it is so immaculately preserved, the town is frequently used as a set for Japanese period films and TV shows as well as advertisements.

There is a great place to rent a kimono nearby, and you can wander the stone-paved streets and feel as though you've slipped back in time while taking one-of-a-kind photos along the way. One of the most popular photo spots is from the top of the Suya-no-Saka slope, looking down towards the valley and the Shioya-no-Saka slope on the opposite side and showing off the unique layout of the ancient town. 

Bungo Mori Roundhouse

Located 4 minutes from Bungo-Mori station, the Bungo Mori Roundhouse is the only surviving roundhouse in Kyushu from the days when the trains there were pulled by steam-powered locomotives. Back then, the roundhouse was used to switch and supply steam locomotives with coal and water so that the trains could travel long distances. 

At its peak, the facility serviced 25 locomotives and employed 217 drivers and other staff. It was even targeted by American planes during World War Two, and bullet holes can still be seen in the walls on one side. Visit this interesting place for great photos of the restored historic locomotive and large, abandoned roundhouse in the background, and be sure to check out the small museum inside!

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Yabakei is a scenic gorge north of the town of Kusu in central Oita. There are 66 scenic spots spread throughout the area, making it a prime destination for outdoor enthusiasts and photographers alike. From Japan's longest arched stone bridge, to a picturesque hand-carved tunnel, to stunning rock formations, the area is chock full of photo spots. 

The photo above shows one of the most famous sights in the area, called Hitome Hakkei (literally "one look, 8 views"). Enjoy gorgeous views of the exposed rock cliffs, which are particularly beautiful in the autumn when the maple leaves turn fiery shades of crimson and gold. 

Yufuin No Mori

If traveling to Oita Prefecture from Fukuoka, the classiest way to get there is undoubtedly aboard the Yufuin No Mori, a special express train with a classic, luxury atmosphere. The train runs from Hakata Station in Fukuoka City all the way to Beppu, making stops near many of the spots mentioned above including Bungo-Mori, Yufuin, and Oita City. 

The stylish interior of the train features wooden flooring and paneling on the walls, and a special lounge car available to all passengers features panoramic windows offering stunning views of the countryside along the journey. Whether photographing the interior of the train, the scenery from the windows, or the train itself as it comes into the station, the Yufuin No Mori provides some excellent photo opportunities. 

Umi Jigoku (Sea Hell)

Umi Jigoku ("Sea Hell") is said to be the most beautiful of the seven famous "hells" in Beppu. These hells are hot springs that are far too hot to bathe in (Umi Jigoku is a scorching 98°C / 208°F) but are quite beautiful to look at. Umi Jigoku gets its name from its beautiful ocean-like blue color, which is due to melting iron sulfate in the water. 

The heat and steam produced from the large hell is enough to warm the surrounding area to tropical temperatures year round, meaning that tropical plants are able to grow close by that wouldn't otherwise. Be sure to check out the massive lotus plants in a nearby pond that are sturdy enough to support 20 kg of weight! 

Kokonoe Yume Otsurihashi

The Kokonoe "Yume" Otsurihashi is Japan's highest pedestrian suspension bridge, towering 173 meters above the gorgeous valley below. From the center of the bridge, you can look down over the stunningly beautiful Shindo Falls, named one of Japan's 100 Best Waterfalls. 

The story goes that after a road going down to the falls was destroyed in a 1975 earthquake, the locals dreamed about creating a bridge that would allow people to enjoy views of the falls again. This dream finally came true in 2006 with the opening of this bridge, called the "Yume" (dream) suspension bridge.  

There are plentiful opportunities here for incredible photos, so don't miss a visit while in Oita. The very best times to go are between April and May, when the lush spring foliage is at its peak, or in November when the trees typically change color.

Oita Is Just One of Kyushu's Amazing Prefectures!

If you enjoy travel photography, Oita should definitely be on your list of prefectures to visit in Japan. But if you've made your way there, be sure to explore the other incredible prefectures in Kyushu as well. They are less-traveled than many other places in Japan, and that's exactly what makes them so great! Go and find your special place in Japan.

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

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