Jigoku Meguri: To The Hells Of Beppu And Back

Three hours of train ride and twenty minutes more on the bus would not stop us from going to the famed Hells of Beppu. I first heard about hell in Religion class in grade school, got a very clear idea of how it works at the Haw Par Villa’s Courts of Hell in Singapore and read about it Dante’s Inferno. It’s obvious that I would want to see Japan’s version of it.

Hells of Beppu

Hells of Beppu

Japan’s hell, or “jigoku” region is located in Kannawa and Kamegawa who earned their hellish reputation back in ancient times when people understandably feared the non-stop fuming gas expulsions and rotten egg stench that emanated from these areas. Even a ways from the site of the Hells of Beppu, we could already see numerous plumes of smoke and smell the signature scent of sulfur that signaled the end of our half-day journey.

Oniishibozu-Jigoku

The “Oniishi Shaven Head Hell” derives inspiration from the bubbles of hot gray mud that boil up to look like the shaven head of monks. Looking at those pools of mud I thought, there is indeed a section of hell reserved for religious figures who lead less than impeccable lives.

Oniishi Shaven Heads Hell, Oniishibozu-Jigoku, Hells of Beppu

First stop: Oniishi Shaven Heads Hell. Do you see the monks?

Human-friendly hot spring, Oniishibozu-Jigoku, Hells of Beppu 2

The foot bath – no shaven heads here.

Oniishi Shaven Heads Hell, Oniishibozu-Jigoku, Hells of Beppu 3

The steam, stench and sound of hell are everywhere.

Oniishi Shaven Heads Hell, Oniishibozu-Jigoku, Hells of Beppu 2

Oniishi Shaven Heads Hell: More monks over here.

Umi-Jigoku

The walk to the next hell was quite scenic, through a manicured garden and a lily and lotus pond. Not to mention the souvenir shop where you can buy certain Eggs of Beppu to bring home.

Garden Pond, Umi-jigoku

Amazon-born royal lotuses, Umi-jigoku

Children can stand on these strong lotus leaves and have their photos taken.

Path to hell, Umi-jigoku

The path to hell goes through a manicured garden.

The largest at 200 meters deep, Umi-Jigoku was so-named because of its cobalt blue hue, akin to the cool sea (umi) on a warm sunny day. But do not be deceived by this pool as its temperature is a scalding 98°C.

Umi-jigoku, Hells of Beppu

Behold the Umi Jigoku!

National Site of Scenic Beauty, Umi-jigoku, Hells of Beppu

Because of its pretty blue color, the government designated it as a National Site of Scenic Beauty.

More to discover at Umi-jigoku

Take this path and see much more.

Drinking and washing water for devotees, Umi-jigoku

Drinking and washing water for devotees who would visit the shrine.

Path to the shrine, Umi-jigoku

Shrine at the end of the path.

Yama-Jigoku

To visit this hell would cost an additional 400 JPY because it is no longer part of the hot springs group. Here, same as with the other hells, hot spring steam is everywhere and the temperature of the pond is 90°C. For me, the most interesting part of it is the multicolored pool.

Yama-Jigoku, Hells of Beppu

Kamado-Jigoku

If Umi-Jigoku welcomes visitors with gardens and souvenirs, Kamado-Jigoku has its Aka-Oni, the great red demon at the forefront. The name of this hell comes from an ancient myth wherein steamed rice was cooked using the 90°C gas discharged by the pool then offered to the Ujigami (guardian god) during the Kamado Hachimangu Shrine Festival, no doubt to fight off the demon. Funny though that Aka-Oni standing on an enormous cooking pot serves as the symbol of this jigoku.

Welcome to Kamado-Jigoku

Welcome to Kamado-Jigoku!

Blue pool at the Kamado-Jigoku

Boiling Mud at Kamado-Jigoku

The guide blows cigarette smoke to the boiling mud to create more steam.

Fortune Telling at Kamado-Jigoku

Japanese fortunes for the curious. Get one based on your blood type.

Red Pool at the Kamado-Jigoku

Red Pool at the Kamado-Jigoku

Oniyama-Jigoku

Unlike its comrades, Oniyama-Jigoku only gets its name from its district. However, it is also known as the Wani-Jigoku or “crocodile hell” as crocs have been bred here since 1929. Is this the hell reserved for corrupt government officials and traffic enforcers? Pool temperature is 98°C.

Oniyama-Jigoku, Hells of Beppu

Hell = steam.

Wani-Jigoku, Oniyama-Jigoku, Hells of Beppu

The hot steam helps breed crocodiles.

Shiraike-Jigoku

Shiraike-jigoku or “white pond hell” actually looked like a typical provincial house with a pool. If you’d ignore the persistent steam that rise off at the sides. Groundwater from this pool starts off as colorless but turns bluish white when it hits the surface where there is a decrease in pressure and temperature. Inside that house-like structure are a variety of tropical fish that live off the heat of the pool.

White Pond Hell, Shiraike Jigoku, Hells of Beppu

The White Pond Hell or Shiraike Jigoku.

National Site of Scenic Beauty: Shiraike Jigoku

Shiraike Jigoku: another National Site of Scenic Beauty

Piranha, Shiraike Jigoku

That piranha to the left is staring straight at you.

Chinoike-Jigoku

Chinoike-Jigoku is Japan’s oldest natural jigoku. Here, the pool’s color comes from the red clay dissolved by the boiling water. This sometimes causes even the steam to turn red. It is also designated as a National Site of Scenic Beauty.

Chinoike Jigoku, Hells of Beppu

No red steam that day.

Stone demons at the Chinoike Jigoku

Stone demons at the Chinoike Jigoku.

Overlooking the entire red hell of Chinoike Jigoku

Overlooking the entire red hell of Chinoike Jigoku.

Tatsumaki-Jigoku

Our last stop was Tatsumaki-Jigoku, a geyser declared as a natural monument by Beppu City. Like all geysers, it spouts steam and boiling water at regular intervals. However, what makes it especially famous is that it only takes 30 minutes in between spouts.

Tatsumaki-Jigoku, Hells of Beppu

Waiting for the show.

Geyser, Tatsumaki-Jigoku, Hells of Beppu

If it weren’t for the roofing, the geyser is said to reach up to 20 feet.

Our stint at the Hells of Beppu took a little more than three hours. I must say, it was a real sensory experience – the colorful and strange hell sites, the omnipresent smell of sulfur, the sound of boiling water and mud, the heat from the pools mix with the fascinating tastes of marron ice cream, red pepper ice cream and kabosu daifuku. Uh-huh, like all tourist spots, eating places are abundant at the Jigoku Meguri. Later on I might get inspired to write about them, too.

Journey to the Hells of Beppu

  • Fly in via Fukuoka
  • From Hakata Station: Board train bound for Kokura
  • From Kokura Station: Board train bound for Beppu Station
  • At the bus stop: Take Bus 2 to Umi Jigoku Mae (Blue Hell Area) – 330 JPY
  • After Shiraike Jigoku: Take Bus 16 at Kannawa Bus Stop – 190 JPY.
    • Note: Bus will not give out change so choose your coins wisely!
  • Get off at Chinoike Jigoku Mae
  • After Tatsumaki-Jigoku: Take Bus 16 at Chinoike Jigoku Mae bound for Kamegawa Station – 140 JPY.
  • From Kamegawa Station: Board train bound for Kokura

Going to hell costs money:

  • 1800 JPY – entrance fee to 7 hells (Oniishi Bozu, Umi, Kamado, Oniyama, Shiraike, Chinoike and Tatsumaki)
  • 400 JPY – entrance fee to Yama Jigoku

October 19, 2016

***all photos were taken using iPhone 6

Comments

Jayce Cairo

Jayce is a linguaphile who speaks four languages and currently works as a translator to finance her various interests. Scoring very high on “Openness to Experience” on the Big Five Personality Test, she is an avid globetrotter who aspires to retire at 35 and travel for the rest of her life.

2 Comments:

  1. this place is amazing! i’d consider this “heaven” instead of hell, i mean the steam coming out kinda reminds me of clouds and stuffs? if hell looks like this i won’t mind visitting “hell” regularly 🙂

  2. Amazing!!! I’ll go to Japan next spring and so exciting about that “hell”. I’ll come here and have a great vacation there. thanks so much for reviewing this place!

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