Beppu: An Onsen City
Any fan of onsen hot springs in Japan knows about Beppu. It's a small city that sits along Kyushu's east coast in Oita prefecture, near the border of Fukuoka. You'll know you've arrived when you start seeing steam rising from buildings and smelling sulfur in the air.
Beppu isn't fancy or luxurious, nor is it a city that's built like a resort area. It's meant to have the onsen be the central focus, a time to get away. Some friends and I made a few trips here while I was living in Yukuhashi, Fukuoka, to do just that.
There are places to visit in the city, too. The most famous is the 7 "Hells" - a couple of areas with different types of waters bubbling up to create a range of environments, most of which look like another world. While they're good for a quick look, there's no need to have it take up a chunk of your schedule.
To get above the city, go to the Beppu Ropeway for a gondola ride up Mount Tsurumi.
The neighboring area also has an African safari where you have the opportunity to feed roaming animals from the inside of a caged bus. Giraffes, kangaroos and lions, along with a tiger cub petting room makes it a fun experience for all ages. Make sure to keep your hands in the cage around the lions - no Simba's around here!
Businesses in the area tend to have a little more English-capable staff compared to other cities in Kyushu due to an international university nearby. While most meals will likely be in the ryokan that you're staying at, here's one place you can check out:
If you could use a break from the Japanese washoku meals at the ryokans, check out Korean-style reimen here. It's a really small, hole-in-the-wall shop, but these cold noodles of their's is refreshing in the summer.