Oita Prefecture, situated in the northeast of Japan’s Kyushu island, beckons travelers with its ancient samurai towns, rejuvenating hot springs, and tranquil mountain temples. This diverse region promises a perfect blend of beauty and adventure, easily accessible from major airports in Tokyo (Haneda), Narita, Osaka, and Nagoya. Immerse yourself in the charm of quaint ryokan inns, bathe in geothermal baths, and explore the rich history of one of Japan’s most intriguing corners with our guide to Oita.
Uncover the Secrets of Kitsuki – The Ancient Samurai City
Journey into the fascinating world of samurai history in Kitsuki, a stronghold in northern Oita Prefecture. Characterized by fearsome armor and a strict code of conduct, the samurai warriors left an indelible mark on Japan between the 12th and 19th centuries. Kitsuki, often referred to as a “sandwich castle town,” boasts two historic samurai districts, beautifully preserved with pavilion roofs and Edo-period architecture. These districts, surrounded by a commercial area, provide a glimpse into the samurai era and serve as captivating filming locations for Japanese period dramas. Explore museums within historic samurai properties, such as Kitsuki Castle, and witness the grandeur of the Ohara Residence, a classic aristocratic home.
Indulge in Oita’s Myriad Hot Springs
Oita takes pride in being home to over 4000 hot springs, more than any other prefecture in Japan. Immerse yourself in the quintessential Japanese experience by bathing in traditional onsens. Sanso Tensui, overlooking Sakura Falls, offers a picturesque setting for a relaxing soak. Indulge in gourmet Japanese cuisine using fresh local ingredients like Bungo beef and Oita fish. Venture to Beppu, the hot-spring capital, where the famous Seven Hells showcase colorful pools of mineral-rich water. While too hot for bathing, these springs inspire unique culinary experiences with “hell steam cuisine.” Beppu’s dramatic landscapes and novel uses of thermal waters make it a must-visit for lovers of natural wonders.
Explore Hidden Temples in Mountain Forests
Beyond hot springs, Oita unfolds its beauty on the slopes of Mount Futago. A dense cedar forest conceals a moss-covered stone staircase leading to Futago-ji, an ancient Buddhist temple standing for over 1300 years. Established in 718, the temple reflects a fusion of Buddhism, Shinto, and animist mountain worship. Delight in the ornate statues of Kannon and Fudo within centuries-old pavilions, adding a serene touch to the mystical ambiance.
Experience Art and Serenity in Oita City
Conclude your Oita adventure in Oita City, the prefectural capital. The Oita Prefectural Art Museum, with its eye-catching design by acclaimed architect Shigeru Ban, showcases the region’s finest artworks. Admire nature-themed paintings by Tanoura Chikuden and the vibrant wildlife artworks of local artist Fukuda Heihachiro. Wrap up your journey at the luxurious City Spa Tenku, a modern bathhouse on the 19th–21st floors of a glass skyscraper. Relax in the open-sided terrace infinity bath, reflecting on your Oita adventures against panoramic views of the city, mountains, and ocean beyond.