The gateway to Kyushu's hot spring country, the place to go for natural healing

The seat of the prefectural government, Oita City is fairly small and unassuming. But it's home to some interesting historical sites and most importantly, gives you access to the rest of the prefecture, famous throughout Japan for its many hot springs. Oita was an important centre for Christian missionaries, so visitors may be surprised to find a fair number of churches mixed in with the usual temples and shrines. Beyond all the fresh seafood on offer in Oita, you won't want to miss the healing hot springs, particularly Beppu, Yufuin and Tsukano Kosen.

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Things to do: Oita

  • Bathing beauties

    No trip to Kyushu is complete without a trip to a hot spring. Resort town Beppu is hugely popular for its prodigious output of spring water and for the wide variety of baths here. Yufuin is a little less crowded and has more of an artsy, small-town feel. Whichever you choose, remember that Japanese like their baths HOT, so dip a toe in first.

  • Beer-y interesting

    Sapporo Beer opens in new window has a factory near Oita and you can do a tour and tasting for free — in the interests of education, of course. Reservations are a must. Afterwards, head to the beer garden next door to continue your research.

  • High-water mark

    Besides having one of the cutest names among tourist spots in Japan, Bungo Ono offers some idyllic swimming in cascading river pools and lovely sites to hike to, including an underwater limestone cave with crystal clear waters that are 40m deep.

  • Raising the bar

    Many of the watering holes in Oita are helpfully gathered in one neighbourhood, Miyako-machi, which is really helpful when you don’t want to be tied down to one bar. You'll find some lively expat magnets catering to classic rock fans, but the best way to find your favourite is just to wander the streets and see what calls to you.

  • Sea you soon

    Among the most popular local dishes in Oita is buri no atsumeshi, slices of locally caught raw yellowtail marinated in soy sauce, sake, sugar and vinegar and placed atop a bowl of hot rice. The dish is often topped with scallions, nori and sesame. For super fresh fish, visit the harbour in nearby Saiki where the catch is served straight from being pulled out of Bungo Channel.

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Airport information

Oita Airport (OIT)

Distance to city centre 30km

Taxi A taxi to central Oita will take around an hour and cost JPY ¥11,000-14,000.

Bus The AirLiner airport express bus takes around an hour to central Oita and costs about JPY ¥1,550 per person, with some services stopping at Beppu. Buses travel from the airport to other parts of Kyushu as well, and meet up with JR trains opens in new window for destinations further afield.

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When to go

Like the rest of Kyushu, Oita has a warm subtropical climate with hot, humid summers and mild winters, though it’s a bit cooler here than elsewhere in the region. Temperatures in the summer months typically reach the high 20s and humidity tends to be high. Winter generally stays above freezing, with daytime temperatures around 5°C. Rain is common in Oita, especially between the months of June and September.

In January, you can attend the Suigyo-e event, where priests pray for the safety of mariners by dousing themselves with buckets of freezing water. Or time a visit with your significant other in July for the Nanase Homura fire festival, whose lanterns are said to represent the flames of passion.

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Getting around

The downtown area is easily accessible on foot and bikes are available for rent at Oita Station. The city also runs a number of buses.

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