Oita, Blessed with Natural Beauty
In just a single day I was able to see Lake Kinrin in the town of Yufuin, take a short pottery class there, enjoy a hot spring footbath in the town of Beppu, and taste some great local specialties.
As one of the three host locations in Kyushu chosen for Rugby World Cup 2019™, located in Oita City and with a spectator capacity of 40,000, Oita Stadium is the largest stadium in the tournament and will host five matches.
Visiting Beppu in Oita Prefecture for the first time in several years, I was once again charmed by Oita’s natural beauty and the smiling, genuine neighbourliness of the locals. Actually, the beauty is not just found looking at the surrounding countryside – women from Kyushu are often referred to “Kyushu beppin” (Kyushu beauties).
Things to Do
Perhaps why locals tend to be so youthful and so stress-free is due to the region’s superabundance of natural volcanic hot springs (nearly 4,500 locations).
Aaaand, lucky you! Oita City is located next to Beppu, the most famous of hot spring resort towns in Western Japan. So, after a full day of excitement cheering at matches, why not head into Beppu for a good soak or perhaps just a foot bath? The winding streets of the Kanawa district in Beppu are dotted with hot spring and foot bath venues and what a bit of bliss it is to put tired feet into one of the free public foot baths!
Looking for things to do aside from the tournament? You might try a visit to nearby Usuki, a former castle town famous for its array of stone buddhas carved into the cliff, or further afield, a day trip into the countryside to Yufuin, where once upon a time the feudal age elite would go, leaving the hoi polloi in Beppu behind.
The main sightseeing attraction in Yufuin is Lake Kinrin. Kinrin translates as “Golden Fish Scale”. The origin of this name is from the fish swimming in the lake whose scales appear like golden sparkles when the sun sets. Shaded walking paths lead you to the restaurants nestled beside the lake. The most elegant of is the former Edo Period sake brewery constructed of ancient dark seasoned strong wooden beams and panels that was relocated from Fukuoka to Yufuin in 1921. It now offers light meals and refreshments and very good coffee.
Yufuin is now quite the arts community and I had the pleasure of trying a ceramic making experience. My experience was under the guidance of a ceramic maker who relates his kiln to the house of Taira. Students of Japanese history might recognise the name Taira, which was once one of the most influential clans in Japan and an off-shoot of the imperial family. To my way of thinking this relationship underscores not only the sense of elegance of the works but also dedication to tradition in the craft produced here. The master ceramic maker is Masashi Segawa. Mr Segawa certainly knows enough English to guide you in a most pleasurable experience of moulding a cup or bowl. Under his expert guidance my pleasure was to turning a ceramic beer mug.
The whole experience is just under an hour. Once finished, the ceramic you create is left to dry, then fired and finally glazed according to your choice from the available glazes, and posted to you in your home country.
Eating in Beppu
All this is bound to leave you famished. In Japan you will always find restaurants concentrated somewhere near a station or transit point. Likewise, dining choices are many in the district around Beppu JR Station. As Beppu’s specialty is chicken, I suspect that were you to stand on a corner in Beppu and throw a stick in any direction you would, in all likelihood, strike a restaurant serving chicken.
I decided on delicious charcoal grilled chicken. Just a heads up that that the charcoal is obvious when it arrives at your table – it might appear that it has been laced with squid ink. In fact, it is just proof of the charcoal cooking process – you won’t be disappointed by its flavour.
Sometimes visitors are surprised at finding that Japanese are also partial to rare seared chicken! This is delicious (I promise) and a favourite of mine but, understandably, not for everyone perhaps. Accompanying that on the menu typically are deep fried chicken, salads, Oyakodon (chicken and egg on a bowl of rice), all washed down with ice-cold beer!
In any case I’m sure your visit to Oita will be one to fondly remember and I hope for the best for your team.