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No.170 (8/27/10)

Oita has a lot to offer!

By Nao H. Kauffman
Chief Editor

From Misawa, by taking two JAL flights, you can reach the island of Kyushu on the west side of Japan. As I grew up in Fukuoka prefecture, the main area of Kyushu, the surrounding areas were very unique and fun to visit. Driving through mountains and casting a side glance at the beautiful scenery, cool spring water in the mountains and the flowing rivers here and there, facing different sides of seas such as Japan Sea, Pacific Ocean, East China Sea, or Seto Inland Sea, Kyushu is never dull to anyone. Last time when I visited my home with my children, their grandparents took us to Oita prefecture. I have lived in and drove across the United States; a gigantic country that is difficult to navigate over large distances. Now I realize how easy and simple it is to encounter different sites for such a short time in Japan. Even though I have once visited these places in my childhood, I am now going to write another family trip to Oita was still wonderful and made me feel more appreciated for what Oita offers.

Beppu City
You cannot miss the city of Beppu, located on the coast of Beppu Bay near Oita Airport. All the tourism can start from this area. Beppu is well known for natural hot springs with many onsen hotels. The tourists just enjoy hopping from one onsen to another as visitors before they nestle themselves in a hotel as guests especially after they go by other places near.

African Safari Park
Taking Rt. 500 near Beppu I.C. to the left and driving up to the highland, you will see a big African elephant figure as the symbol of the entrance. The safari park is a unique style of zoo. You can ride your own vehicle into the park or take a park buss called the Jungle Bus. It feels as if you are driving through a savannah. Entering from one gate to another certainly will excite you and make you wonder what kind of animals appear in the next zone. If you take the Jungle Bus by paying higher fees, you may have opportunities to feed some animals through the cage on the bus. My father let my children hop in the driverfs seat with him as he let me try before when I was young. When we were driving slowly through the park, one cheetah came up toward our car. My children were so frightened, and we could not move an inch. Donft worry! At every zone, the safari park keepers are patrolling for our safety in SUVs. The driver intimidated the cheetah by moving forward as he tried to push him away. Such a challenging experience can be never offered at the regular zoo. There are other Safari Parks in Tohoku. One is in Iwate near Ichinoseki I.C. The other larger scale one is located in Nihonmatsu of Fukushima prefecture.

Takasakiyama & Umitamago
From Beppu city, a 20 minute drive Southside along the coast; you can visit an aquarium called Umitamago. There are a variety of shows available. Excluding the maintenance day, they are open all year around from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and to 9 p.m. on weekends, holidays plus during summer vacation. Parking fee is 400 yen. The admission is 1,890 yen for 16 years and older, 950 yen for over the first grade, and 630 yen for 4 years and older. I found the aquarium to be more interesting than the others since you can actually play ball with the dolphins while you are waiting for the performance. The dolphins are swimming freely in the pool and heading the ball out to the visitors as if they are begging for a response.

After you enjoy the maritime sightseeing, just leave your car at the parking and cross the overpass to Takasaki mountain national park. The park was open in 1953 after making take to feeding wild monkeys for several months till they opened their territories to humans. You can hike up to the park for about 10 minutes or take a slope car like a monorail for a few minutes. Small amount of admission fees are used to maintain this monkey kingdom. There used to be about 220 monkeys seen in three groups in 1953. However, now the groups are down to two. The head of groups is usually called Alpha, a male monkey. There is no fence or net to keep you away from the wild monkeys. You quite simply would feel like you enter gPlanet of the Apes.h So, be sure not to carry snacks in hand or dangling any personal belongings. According to the park guide, you will have good luck if monkeys walk between your legs.

If you visit Beppu city, a visit to eight natural hot springs is a must to do. 2 1/2 hour bus tour takes you around the following spectacular springs. All the springs are just for observation due to the extreme high temperature of natural springhead. The reaction of substances from inclusion creates different colors and horrifying atmosphere just like gInferno.h Hot water gushes forth from the ground, roaring and fiercely rumbling, as if the demons of ONI anticipated for your false slip down to the hell. At the sites, there are different unique features of sightseeing available by utilizing the natural heat from the steam.

Umijigoku (ocean): cobalt blue pond of boiling water emerged about 1,200 years ago by a volcanic explosion. The gigantic gVictoria Amazonicah lotus is grown, and flowers are seen from spring to fall. In August around Obon holidays, there is an annual event that let young children stand on the lotus leaf.

Oniishibouzu (demon rock shaved head): small and large grey bubbles boil up look like the head of monks.

Yama (mountain): A gust of steam creates great high temperature for a mini zoo with Flamingo, African Elephants, monkeys etc. which children can definitely enjoy.

Kamado (hotpot): A bright read gdemonh standing on an enormous cooking pot is the sign. Kamado is literally an ancient tool to cook rice. Annual budding ritual ceremony by cooking altarage rice is the origin of the name.

Oniyama (demon mountain): Numerous crocodiles and alligators are violently on top of each other at the hellish site for their home.

Shiroike (white pond): The clear water mysteriously turns creamy white by naturally cooling down after spouting from the ground. Tropical fishes are raised here.

Chinoike (bloody pond): The clay is steaming hot to the point that the steam is also red.

Tatsumaki (geyser): This site is particularly in the limelight among the worldfs geysers such as Yellow Stone National Park due to the shorter intervals of 20-40 minutes between spouts.

The tour will be conducted in Japanese, but English brochures should be available at the sites. You could pick only a few sites to visit by paying for individual admissions; however eight gHellh free passes are worth to pay.

Another big name hot springs area takes a magnificent view of Yufu Mountain and Lake Kinrin. Contradicting to such a popular name of Beppu, the appealing point is deserted rural and basin setting. Yufuin lovers are searching for relaxation and leisurely hours during their stay.

Kijma Kougen (Kijima Highland Park)
From Beppu city to Yufuin, there is a large scale Highland Park resort, which offers a variety of activities such as golfing, wedding, and a theme park. There is Japanfs first wooden roller coaster, which was built from 60,000 Norway spruces. Free passes are available for 3,800 yen for 13 and older and 2,800 yen for 4 years and older. The pass holder is required to be taller than 120cm to get on thrill rides.

These are only major spots in Oita prefecture. In such a small prefecture of 6,339.55 ku, there are more to see as I cannot fit everything in this article. Traveling outside Aomori will never let you down!

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