Oita, Japan Feb. 21 Tues 7:20AM
Oita Prefecture, located in the Kyushu's eastern portion, is a land surrounded by mountains and the sea, and like much of Kyushu and Japan at large is blessed by broad and beautiful nature, planes and fields of flowers, waterfalls and dramatic rivines.
Called ”Onsen (Hot Springs) Prefecture," Oita can't be beat for its volume and quality of natural hot springs, surpassing even Kusatsu or Hakone for those willing to make the trek to Kyushu. In addition to typical hot spring baths, bathers can also try enjoying a mud bath or even sand baths, a Kyushu specialty. Onsen fans definitely won't want to miss Beppu, which has the distinction of being the town with the most hot springs in all of Japan, also famous for its hellish-appearing pools and the nearby Yufuin, a more laid back, retro-cool destination.
Beppu "Sea Hell"
Beppu Onsen Hoyo Land
The prefecture also has a wealth and variety of spiritual sites.
Usa Shrine is a highly revered shrine, the main dwelling place of the Shinto god Hachiman, who in all of Japan has over 44,000 temples dedicated to him.
The Buddhist spots Futago-ji and Kumano Magaibutsu, both located ont he prefecture's Kunisaki Peninsula, also happen to be wonderful spots to appreciate greenery, autumn colors, and snow in winter.
The mysterious stone Buddhas in Usuki are designated as national treasure.
Like everywhere else in Japan, the area has no shortage of exclusive regional dishes either. Some of Oita's local varieties of beef and fish are renowned throughout Japan.
"Seki Saba" (A kind of Horse Mackerel)
Animal lovers could contruct an itinerary going all around Japan just to meet their favorite critters, and Oita would definitely enter into the list, with Mt. Takasaki Zoo, where over a thousand monkeys roam freely and casually mingle with guests, and Oita African Safari, where guests can see African animals such as lions and giraffes up close from a caged bus.
Those looking for some other leisurely activities also won't be disappointed.
Although there are no big shopping opportunities like in the more bustling Fukuoka, those looking for a more quietly drifing way of passsing time have come to the right place.
How about cooling off on a summer evening aboard a yakatabune cruise while dining on some local specialties in the cool evening on the Mikuma River in Hita?
Or renting a kimono and strolling the old-fashioned castle town of Kitsuki?
Basically, if you're looking to relax, Oita is the place to be!
For travelers coming from Honshu, flying is by far the cheapeast and easiest way to reach Oita, especially when using HAnavi bundle deals.
JR Pass holders also needn't feel left out, as the prefecture is accessible via JR trains.