Oita prefecture in Kyushu is a coastal region of Japan that’s best known for its onsen or hot springs. In addition to a dip in some of those steaming mineral waters, there are lots of great things to do in Oita – here are some that you shouldn’t miss, plus info about getting there and more.
#1 Onsen indulgence
Japan is famous for its onsens, which are bathhouses and spa facilities that use heated water from natural hot springs. These hot spring facilities offer unrivalled levels of relaxation and sometimes health benefits from the minerals in the water. The heat source is also used in some culinary experiences; it’s believed that cooking via natural steam intensifies flavours.
Onsens are a unique and graceful Japanese experience all visitors should try while in Japan – and Oita prefecture just happens to be the onsen capital of the country! The prefecture has the largest number of hot springs in the country, so there’s no excuses. There’s something for everyone, too. Try one of Oita’s outdoor onsens and you’ll be surrounded by nature while you soak in the mineral hot springs – an incredible chance to slow down and connect with the natural world. Oita also offers a variety of private bath experiences that range from affordable and family-friendly, to truly luxurious.
Discover onsen options here
#2 Kitsuki Castle Town
Ever wanted to get dolled up in a kimono and experience the glamour of traditional Japanese dress? Oita’s Kitsuki Castle Town is just the place to make your dreams come true. Spend the day feeling elegant while you explore this cute town and all its history in a beautiful kimono.
Not into kimonos? Kitsuki offers more than a day of beautiful fabric and once-in-a-lifetime fashion moments – it has a “tough” side too. This was once a samurai stronghold. The town will give you an interesting peek into the Edo period, a time when samurais flourished. There’s also a pretty beach that offers a variety of fun water sports like stand-up paddle boarding for those who like to get active.
Foodies will need to get their cameras ready for all the edible delights in Kitsuki Castle Town. Try taking yourself back in time by experiencing a traditional tea ceremony, 1875 style, at Tomaya Tea Emporium – matcha powdered tea and delicate sweets never tasted so good.
See a Kitsuki guide here
#3 Food, glorious food!
Oita prefecture has over 700km of coastline, so it’s no surprise that seafood is central to the area’s culinary offerings. This is the place to try Fugu (blow fish), a fine dining favourite that’s cut thick when served as sashimi. You can also try Fugu fried or with rice porridge. Oita is famous across Japan for its mackerel sashimi, look out for Seki-aji and Seki-saba – two well-known sashimi brands the locals devour.
Also keep an eye out for Mushi Ryori options on menus. These are onsen dishes, or steamed cuisines. Some restaurants will allow you to steam your own vegetables, eggs and meat using a natural steam source – it’s a fun and healthy option to try. Alteratively, try some Dango-jiru, thick wheat noodles cooked in miso soup. It’s an old-school local food that really hits the spot.
While in Oita, be sure to try some of the region’s locally-made sake and shochu. Shochu is a Japanese spirit made from either rice, barley or sweet potato. Oita’s shochu is mainly made from barley. It can be drunk straight or served with a mixer, or you might also see it served as a cocktail.
Learn a little more about shochu here
#4 Hike Tadewara Marshland
Looking for some wide, open space? Head to Tadewara Marshland near the Kuju mountain range and take a hike through this important ecological area, which became protected under the Ramsar Convention in 2005.
The walking paths all start at the Chojabaru Visitor Centre, which offers English-language films for visitors to learn about the flora and fauna in the area. There’s also lots to learn about the Kuju mountain range, including how to spot a tanuki, also known as a raccoon dog. If you do see one, it’ll bring you luck!
Starting at the visitor centre, there are a few walking options on offer through Tadewara Marshland. Take a stroll along the cedar boardwalks that protect the delicate ecosystem and choose from a family-friendly 20-minute walk or a longer 60-minute hike. You can also continue on and hike up and around the mountain for stunning view of the marshland and its glorious colouring – worth the effort!
Find out how to get there: Tadewara Marshland
Getting there and getting around
- Flights: Fly to Oita prefecture from Hong Kong via a domestic stop in Japan. Check your favourite airline for deals.
- Land transport: Book a car online from one of the many hire companies and collect at the airport. Ask for an English GPS and an ETC (electronic toll collection) card when you book.
- Not a driver? Japan has an amazing public transport system. Buy a JR Kyushu Rail Pass (jrkyushu.co.jp/English/railpass/railpass.jsp) or a SUNQ Pass for the buses (sunqpass.jp/english/index.shtml).
- Planning and information: To get planning, head to Oita’s official website discover-oita.com or facebook.com/welcometooitapref.
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