Oita Prefecture is one of the three host locations in the southern main island of Kyushu, joining Kumamoto City, Kumamoto Prefecture and Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture. Oita is on the northeastern side of the island, bordering Ehime Prefecture and Yamaguchi Prefecture across the Inland Sea.
“Beppu Hot Spring”
The prefecture is a nature lover’s paradise, with over 70 percent of it being forest or volcanic terrain. It is also known for being one of the first places where Buddhism took root in Japan over 1,300 years ago, with Buddha statues dating from that time sculpted into stone cliffs and rock faces throughout the prefecture. The best-known site for these statues is Usuki, which has 60 carvings from the 12th century and is considered the largest collection of ancient Buddhist stone figures in Japan.
“Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System, Tashibu Manor”
But for most, a single word best describes Oita: onsen, or natural hot springs. Oita Prefecture has the largest number of onsen sources in Japan (nearly 4,500 locations) and is home to Beppu and Yufuin, the two largest onsen resort areas in the country. Long popular for domestic travel and hot springs vacations, Oita Prefecture is an easy hour and 40 minute flight from Tokyo and an hour by air from Osaka. Shinkansen bullet trains also link major cities in Honshu island (Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Hiroshima) with Kyushu and have easy local transfers to Oita. For those interested in more leisurely journeys, a number of bus and ferry lines can cater to your whims.
A closer look at the two major onsen areas of Beppu and Yufuin reveal a hot springs selection that appeals to visitors of all ages and tastes. Beppu is the more developed resort area. The main onsen draw is the eight spots that make up the jigoku meguri (literally, “circuit of hells”), where each site has spectacular or unusual displays of raw geothermal emanations that suggest the namesake. The town has numerous other sites for visitors to soak in the onsen experience, from traditional inns or ryokan to modern hotel and spa resorts; you can make your hot spring selection from natural hot water geysers, mud, sand or steam. In contrast, the smaller Yufuin has long attracted an older, more sedate type of hot springs fan. Located only 25 km inland from the coastal Beppu, Yufuin has an active contemporary Japanese crafts culture in addition to its onsen attractions. Both towns offer foodies a chance to sample local Japanese dishes as well as more well known examples. This could be your prime opportunity to enjoy fugu, the Oita food specialty that international gourmands recognize as poisonous blowfish prepared by licensed specialist chefs.
“The Hells of Beppu”
Rugby has been a mainstay of sports in Oita for many years, from the high school and university level to corporate teams. A 2016 highlight therefore was the August visit by the Rugby School 1st XV team to Japan for a four-game goodwill tour, including a stop in Oita. Rugby School is recognized as the birthplace of the game, and a special short film at the opening ceremony of the Rugby World Cup 2015 featured current and former student/players as well as the Rugby School campus. This tour fittingly brought together the school where the sport originated, from the host country of the last Rugby World Cup, and the host of the next Rugby World Cup. The Oita game pitted Rugby School against Oita Maizuru High School, with Rugby 1st XV emerging triumphant to cap an undefeated Japan tour.
“OPAM（Oita Prefectural Art Museum）”
Designed by Shigeru Ban, winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2014 and designer of France’s Pompidou Center-Metz, this museum built in April 2015 is the first prefectural art museum built in Japan in almost a decade. The museum facilitates surprise encounters and promotes use of all five senses in a unique, novel style that will continue to communicate Oita to the world.
“The Hita Gion Festival is a 300-year-old summer tradition”
The Hita Gion Festival is a 300-year-old summer tradition to pray for protection against illness and storm and flood damage. The festival features gorgeous floats parading through the Kuma, Takeda and Mameda districts to the sounds of traditional music known as Gionbayashi. In the evening, the streets are lit up with elegant festival lanterns to bring the festival to its climax.
Oita beef’s finely marbled fat has a mellow, melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness. The flavor of the beef is largely affected by the pedigree of the cattle, particularly that of the bull. Oita bulls have received national awards such as the Japan’s Imperial Award and the Minister’s Award from the ministry responsible for agriculture.
Venue – Oita Stadium
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