Location: Beppu Hells: I went to hells.

 What does this little furry guy have to do with this post? Well, he was the first picture I took upon arriving at the first of the hells in Beppu. Beppu is a tourist/resort town home to several hot springs, including some springs so hot you can't use them (the water is near or at the boiling point). Why are too-hot hot springs important? These particular ones are quite beautiful, with many of them having a unique color.

The hot springs are so hot they've been given the name hells in English - though that moniker is certainly used for attracting tourists as much as describing the temperature. In Japanese, the term is jigoku, and there are eight total. Six are clustered together in Kannawa,with two more side-by-side a short bus ride away.

Because the hells are such a big draw, they have become quite touristy, which can be a turn-off for some visitors. However, with a little constructive photo cropping and a blind eye, you can ignore most of it. One of the hells has a small zoo, but it certainly is hell for this elephant.
 I'm not sure if that cage is really big enough for this poor guy. There are other animals on display too, but it is kind of sad so I moved on.
 Steam! I must be near!
 This is Yama Jigoku (Mountain Hell), which is a "mountain" of mud made naturally by the spring.
 Hey, it's the official hells mascot! I told you it's touristy.
 This is one of the most beautiful, called Umi Jigoku (Sea Hell).
 Some of the hells have little shrines, and these gates lead to one of the shrines.
The Sea Hell from another angle.
 On to another hell, this one having a color similar to Georgia red clay.
 What's special about this one is some up-close mud pools. Every few seconds a bubble would make its way to the surface. It's called Oniishibozu Jigoku.
 Some of the springs have "interactive" areas such as this area where you can put your feet in the water. It felt quite nice to relax in the spring water for a few minutes.
 Another random small spring at the mud hell with mud-colored water and an interesting formation.
 All hail the great Beppu devil! The steam erupts from beneath his feet! Perfect for...
 Photos! This is the devil who cooks your food (see below).
 So how hot is hot? You can (try to) touch water of various temperatures.
 How about a steam facial? Careful, some of these hells have a strong sulfuric content!
 I'm not sure what's going on here. I'm hungry.
 You can buy eggs and pudding cooked in the hot springs. This is my hard-boiled egg with salt. You peel the egg, dip it in the salt, and enjoy. The flavor wasn't bad though some might not like it.
 A green hell known as Kamado Jigoku - Cooking Pot Hell. Yes, this is where the egg came from, and that statue above.
 At this point in the day, even the devils are getting tired and need to relax for a while.
 Quick, name the animal before scrolling any further.
 Yep. Crocodiles. We're at Oniyama Jigoku, the least-attractive of the hells in my mind.
 There are dozens of them! Don't worry, if you don't stick your finger through the fence they can't get you.
Where there are crocodiles, there are turtles sunning on the rocks. This brings back memories of San Francisco's Academy of Natural Sciences when I was a kid.
 Let's move on to the Shiraike Jigoku (White Pond Hell), which is a white pond.
 What are all these people watching? Is it a trained bear show? Are tropical birds going to fly overhead?
 Nope, we're at Tatsumaki Jigoku, the spout hell. It's a geyser that shoots hot spring water in the air every 30 minutes or so for about eight minutes. This and the next hell are the two located away from the rest.
 And it's off! While people were originally polite and sitting in the seats, once the eruption had been going for a minute or so they moved forward to take a photo.
 So did I. The stone plate at the top probably makes it look much taller than it is (in this picture).
 Literally right next door is Chinoike Jigoku (Blood Pond Hell). It's another reddish pool set right into the mountain.
 There's a small shrine in the back, and it might be the most photogenic of the hells. It also has a gigantic souvenir shop, so buy your goodies here.
The bus stop back to downtown Beppu is across the street next to a small convenience store. I recommend you buy a bottle of Beppu beer to drink on your way back to town. Yeah, you can drink in public here, though some people might look at you strange.

Beppu has a bit more to see and do. There's an amusement park in the hills (coming up in a future post), an aquarium, a monkey park, and plenty of hot springs where you can actually use the water. It's hotter than most hot springs, too. This building houses Takegawara, where I took my first public bath. I enjoyed a 10-minute hot sand bath followed by the actual hot water bath. The sand bath is really relaxing - hot sand compressing you in a comfortable hug. There are other places in Beppu to get a sand bath, though this might be the most famous. Expect a wait (I had a two-hour wait) and bring a towel (or buy one of theirs).

I'd like to return to Beppu or somewhere similar to enjoy another (hopefully longer) sand bath, a mud bath, and some of the other sauna-style treatments one can find in town. Beppu is good for a full day (or two if you really want to see it all and take several baths). Lodging will be a bit more expensive since it's a tourist town, but visitors can use Oita (a short train ride away) if only staying for a day and they don't want to stay in a ryokan or in town.

The hells are accessible by several buses which leave very frequently from the train station. Ask at the visitor center/tourist information desk for a current schedule (buses 5, 7, and 9 are fastest) and a map. Remember that two of the eight hells are a second 5-minute bus ride away (route 16 or 16A from the Kannawa hells). Each hell charges 400 yen for admission, or you can buy a souvenir ticket book for 2000 yen that admits you to all eight hells. They're open every day from 8 AM to 5 PM.

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