“Bathing just once in this hot spring will clear your skin, and continued bathing will cure all your aches and pains. Given such positive results without exception since long ago, people call it the ‘water of the gods’.”From the anonymous author of Izumi no Kuni Fudoki (The Chronicle of the Gods) after a visit to one of Beppu’s famous hot springs some 1300 years ago
Located on the island of Kyushu in Japan is the city of Beppu. The Japanese famously love their hot springs, known as onsen in Japanese, and Beppu has more hot springs than anywhere else in Japan. The city is located between the sea and the mountains, providing eight distinct areas of the city where you may indulge in baths in the geothermal-heated waters, immersion in heated mud or hot black sands, or a swim in the open-air seaside pools known as rotemburo.
Or, you could take a dip in the Takegawara Onsen, a hot spring located inside a beautiful old wooden building dating back to the late 1880s in the Meiji era. It was in this onsen (though long before the present shrine had been erected) that the annonymous scribe had taken his bath before penning the quotation above.
Then we come to the jigoku meguri, or hell circuit, the tour of the eight hells of Beppu. In these springs the temperature is too hot for bathing, and these ‘hells’ with their vivid blue and red waters are simply for sight-seeing.
To complete your tour you can also take in the onsen in the foothills of the mountain, though bathing there is probably not wise. It is where, in the temperate waters they raise crocodiles and is named Oniyama Jigoku or, appropriately, Monster Mountain Hell.
One word of warning: if you are tattooed then you may be denied entrance to the onsen. The Japanese associate tattoos with the heavily tattooed Yakuza criminal gangs.
Whether tattoos will keep you out of other hells we can only conjecture.