I consider myself lucky living just 2.4km away from the one and only hot spring in Japan that was awarded three Michelin stars for five consecutive years, Hyotan Onsen. It is considered to be the most beautiful hot spring facility in Beppu with a highly recommended waterfall and sand bath. I totally agree with this, as it has always been my favorite onsen to unwind in, even before I knew what it was famous for!
Beppu is known as the onsen capital, and you won’t find an onsen with the three-star recognition from Michelin anywhere else. The facility is also tattoo- and Muslim-friendly, which is good news for some of you. Some Muslims aren’t keen on the idea of taking a bath with strangers. Hyotan’s facility offers private bathrooms and attire for Muslims. The vending machine ticket has a specific option of “Family bath for Muslims.”
Hyotan Onsen: An overview
Opened in 1922, Hyotan Onsen boasts traditional-style pools and facilities that were made from rocks and Japanese cypress 100 years ago. It has an expansive facility that offers eight wide variations of baths for each gender, including an elegant open-air bath, a steam bath, a sauna, and even a waterfall bath where you can stand below the falls and the water will come pouring down onto your neck, back, and shoulders. The waterfall will give you a pleasant and relaxing massage for your tired bones.
The general admission costs ¥750 for an adult, but for an additional ¥330, you can get dressed in yukata while lying down buried in hot sand, the warmth of which comes from the hot spring steams.
I found this a very enjoyable activity to do with your friends, as this inevitably includes burying one another with sand. If you find yourself too busy burying others, you will have to bury yourself in the end!
You will start sweating after a while as the sand bath has a similar effect to a sauna. I definitely recommend getting the sand bath before going to the main bathhouse.
The health benefits of Hyotan Onsen
Besides the fantastic facility, the hot spring water in Hyotan is rich in metasilicic acid, which is the ultimate natural moisturizer that will leave your skin soft after the bath. For this reason, it is recommended not to shower after soaking yourself in the onsen water.
The water source is boiling at its geothermal temperature, reaching up to 100˚C. The water goes through a natural cooling process with the help of Yumetake (湯雨竹), a bamboo framework that decreases the temperature to 47˚C. Hyotan ensures that their water comes directly from its natural sources, as additional tap water would dilute the mineral contents.
Private onsen for solitude
If you are a family, small group, or just an individual who wants complete solitude, Hyotan Onsen also offers private onsens, both indoor and outdoor, which can be rented by the hour.
Other than bathing, Hyotan’s restaurant also serves food steamed in onsen vapor. You can also enjoy local Japanese cuisine in the outdoor terrace while still dressed in your yukata before going to the sand bath.
After trying a lot of onsens in Beppu, Hyotan Onsen remains on top of my list whenever I want to relax my tired bones or simply have a very Japanese weekend.
If you are headed to Beppu, check out this ‘hell steaming’ restaurant, too!
Hyotan Onsen information
159-2 Kannawa, Beppu, Ōita Prefecture 874-0042
- From Beppu Station’s East Exit, take the Oita Kotsu Bus bound for Kannawa Onsen and get off at Jigokubara. From there, the onsen is a three-minute walk.
- From Beppu Station’s East or West Exit, take the Kamenoi Bus bound for Kannawa and get off at Kannawa. From there, it is a six-minute walk.
- From the Oita Airport, a 45-minute ride via the airport road.
- From Beppu Kitahama, a 15-minute ride.
- From Beppu Station, a 15-minute ride.
- From Beppu International Tourist Port, a ten-minute ride.
Open every day from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m.
- Adult: ¥750 (after 6 p.m.: ¥560)
- Sand bath (yukata and disposable underwear included): ¥330
- Family bath (up to three adults): ¥2,510/hour