With waters famous for its moisturizing qualities, Hyotan Onsen is Japan's only hot spring awarded three stars by Michelin Travel’s Green Guide. As relaxation is the main goal, be sure to set aside a whole day for your visit, if not an overnight stay.
Hyotan Onsen is located in Beppu in central Oita Prefecture.
Train: The closest station is Beppudaigaku Station, serviced by the JR Nippou Line and a 30 minute journey from Beppu Station. Beppu Station can be reached by Limited Express Train from Hakata, Oita, Miyazaki and Hitoyoshi, as well as neighboring areas. All trains are covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
Bus: From Beppu Station, get on a Kamenoi Bus bound for Kannawa and get off at Kannawa. It’s about a 30-minute ride followed by a six-minute walk from the bus stop to Hyotan.
Hyotan Onsen was founded in 1922. It takes its name from a nearby observation tower that was shaped like a gourd, or hyotan in Japanese. The company developed its own bamboo cooling system which cools the hot spring water from 100 to 45 degrees Celsius before it flows into the baths.
There are eight types of baths available: outdoor, gourd, cypress, waterfall, pebble, steam, water and rock. The most popular are the waterfall baths, where you can relax under a waterfall of hot water as you soak.
For those who would prefer privacy, there are four outdoor baths and five indoor baths available for private rental at reception. The bath water is changed each time, and you can adjust the water temperature to your liking.
Family baths can be used for one hour and cost around 2000 yen for up to three adults. Reservations are advised and can be made up to one week in advance. Wearing bathing suits in the family baths is permissible. Bring your own or rent one for a small fee.
Bathing in natural sand heated by the steam of the hot springs promotes general health and wellbeing because it heats the body slowly. Don a light cotton bathrobe, or yukata, and try burying yourself or a friend in the hot sand for fresh and glowing skin.
Aside from bathing, you can try making steamed tofu using the steam from the hot spring and drink from a lucky hot water faucet. Meals, snacks and refreshments are available at on-site facilties.