大分県――地球のエネルギーを感じる「温泉天国」

[From December Issue 2013]

201312-4-1

Umi-jigoku


An area of hot springs, Oita Prefecture is visited by tourists not only from within Japan, but from all over the world. Although located in the Kyushu region, links with the Chugoku region, Shikoku, and Kansai have flourished via the Seto Inland Sea. This is because Oita is surrounded by mountains, and therefore, until the advent of modern roads and railroads, interaction with other prefectures in Kyushu was rather limited.
In terms of their sheer number and output, the hot springs in Oita Prefecture outstrip any other in Japan. Within the prefecture there are 4,471 individual sources, the greatest concentration in the world. There are 11 varieties of hot spring in the world, ten of which can be found in Oita. Whether you’re talking sand baths, mud baths or steam baths, Oita’s springs are also characterized by their rich diversity. There are also carbonated hot springs, hot springs that turn from being transparent to brown when the water comes into contact with the air, and hot springs that you can drink from to help alleviate stomach disorders.
In Beppu City, where over half of the prefecture’s spring sources are located, hot springs have been typically utilized as public bathhouses for centuries. That’s why, even today, many old houses do not have a bath. Moreover, these days it’s not unusual for baths in modern homes to draw their water from a hot spring.
201312-4-2

View of Beppu Onsen


Taking the best part of the day to cover, the “Hell Tour” begins just five minutes by car from the Beppu Interchange. From the blue “Umi-jigoku” (sea hell) to the red “Chinoike-jigoku” (blood pond hell), it’s possible to see eight individual hot springs. Scalding hot water gushes out from each spring with tremendous force, allowing visitors to experience the enormous power of the Earth’s energy firsthand. Jigoku-mushi savory dishes and puddings are cooked instantly by harnessing the power of the high temperature steam.
Only a 40-minute drive from The Hell Tour, is “Yu no Tsubo Kaido” (Hot Spring Boulevard) in Yufu City, another popular tourist spot. The street is lined with gift shops and eateries. One street away from the main road is the Oita River where one can take a stroll and enjoy the scenery that changes according to the season. Only a 15-minute walk away is Kinrin Lake, in which a hot spring bubbles up from the bottom. On winter mornings this creates a fog on the surface of the lake; a fantastic spectacle.
Another 50 minutes by car from Kinrin Lake is Kokonoe “Dream” Suspension Bridge in Kokonoe-machi. At 173 meters high and 390 meters long, it is Japan’s largest suspension footbridge. From the highest point of the bridge, it’s possible to enjoy some spectacular scenery: the Kuju Mountains, the Kyusui Ravine, the Shindo Waterfall and the Naruko River Canyon. A 45-minute drive from there takes you to the Kuju Flower Park on the Kuju Plateau in Taketa City. With the Kuju Mountains as a backdrop, in this extensive flower park, depending on the season, a variety of different flowers bloom including, tulips, lavenders, and cosmoses.
201312-4-3

Usa Jingu


Situated on the north side of the Kuju Mountains, the Tadewara Wetlands in Kokonoe-machi is a marsh formed from an alluvial fan created by volcanic activity. Along with the Bogatsuru Wetlands, it was registered in the Ramsar Convention (Convention on Wetlands of International Importance) in 2005. It is possible to stroll freely through these wetlands and the surrounding forests along a trail that was constructed for the purposes of studying the nature in the area.
Those with an interest in history should head for the Stone Buddhas of Usuki in Usuki City. Carved into a natural cliff face, the statues have been designated a natural treasure. Believed to have been carved around the 12th century, there are four groups of over 60 stone Buddhas. In the nearby Stone Buddha Park different flowers can be enjoyed in different seasons, but it’s recommended that visitors go in July and August when the Sacred Lotus blossoms. In Oita City there are also the Oita Motomachi Stone Buddhas and Kamezuka Kofun (an ancient burial mound). In Bungo-ono City there are the Sugao Stone Buddhas.
Usa Jingu in Usa City is the head shrine for over 40,000 Hachiman shrines across the country. The grounds are so enormous that it takes about an hour to walk around the whole perimeter. One notable feature is that, along with many of its surrounding buildings, the main shrine – which has been designated as a national treasure – has been lacquered in vermillion. Only used once every ten years, another highlight is the covered bridge and courtyard. The road leading up to the shrine is lined with a number of gift shops.
201312-4-4

Suya no Saka


An Edo period (17-19th centuries) townscape has been preserved in Kitsuki City. The sloping streets of “Suya no Saka” and “Shihoya no Saka” used to connect the higher level samurai manors with the merchant town below and, because of their scenic beauty, are often used as a backdrop for filming TV dramas and movies. Before taking a stroll, it’s recommended that you visit Waraku-an, where you can rent kimono to wear for only 2,000 yen, this also earns you free admission into Kitsuki Castle, a museum and other places. If you don’t speak Japanese, it is no problem, but English-speaking representatives can be made available if you call ahead of time.
Those who want to immerse themselves in nature are encouraged to visit the Inazumi underwater limestone caves in Bungo-ono City. Caves of this scale are rarely found anywhere else in the world. Formed 200,000 years ago during the glacial period, there, countless stalactites can be found. The water inside is over 40 meters deep. Magical scenery can also be found at Yufu River Gorge in Yufu City. The v-shaped gorge, measuring between 20 to 50 meters deep, with its innumerable strings of cascading water and smoothly eroded rock is a natural work of art.
201312-4-5

Inazumi underwater limestone caves


These days the “Olle” style of travel, which originated in Korea, is attracting attention. With a map in one hand, participants walk along at their own pace, looking out for ribbon signposts placed along the route while enjoying the scenery. In the dialect of Jeju Island in Korea, Olle means “the narrow road home.” In Kyushu there are eight routes. Passing by various parks and temples along the way, the Oita route starts at Asaji Station in Bungo-ono City and gives hikers an enjoyable taste of the rural landscape. Finishing at Bungo Taketa Station in Taketa City, the route is approximately 12 kilometers long and takes five to six hours to complete.
Blessed by nature, Oita has lots of delicious local cuisine to offer. Its dried shiitake mushrooms and barley shouchuu liquor are renowned throughout Japan. Oita brand seki aji (Japanese horse mackerel) and seki saba (Japanese chub mackerel) are considered to be of the highest quality. Normally chub mackerel has to be cooked to be eaten, but this variety can be eaten raw as sashimi. Oita produces 97% of the kabosu (a type of citrus fruit) grown in Japan. With its juice poured over sashimi, tsukemono (pickled vegetables) or into beer, most of it is consumed in the prefecture. Toriten deep-fried chicken dipped in tempura batter is a staple local specialty as well as a traditional home-cooked dish.
201312-4-6

Seki saba


In the Oita Prefecture Tourism Guidebook are a number of different coupons offering discounts and special promotions. Information and directions are available in English, Korean and Chinese both inside JR Beppu Station and on the street just outside the station. A “Friendly Guide” service can be provided if requested at the cost of 3,000 yen for two hours, excluding travel expenses.
It takes roughly six and half hours to get to Oita Station from JR Tokyo Station on the Shinkansen (Bullet Train), transferring at Kokura along the way. From Haneda Airport in Tokyo it’s roughly a one and a half hour flight to Oita Airport. At Oita Airport, plastic replicas of sushi plates of shrimp and sea urchin revolve around the conveyor belt as you wait for your luggage.
Tourism Oita[2013年12月号掲載記事]
201312-4-1

海地獄


大分県は国内だけでなく海外からも多くの観光客が訪れる温泉地です。九州地方に位置していますが、瀬戸内海を通じて中国、四国、関西地方との交流が盛んでした。山々に囲まれているため、交通が発達するまで九州の他の県との関わりが少なかったためです。
大分の温泉は源泉数、湧出量ともに日本一です。県内には4,471ヵ所の源泉があり、その数は世界一です。世界には11種類の泉質がありますが、そのうち10種類が大分にあります。砂湯、泥湯、蒸し湯などバリエーションに富んでいることも特徴です。炭酸の温泉や、空気にふれると透明から褐色へ変わる温泉、飲むと胃腸病に効くといわれる温泉もあります。
県内の半分以上の源泉を持つ別府市は、古くから公衆浴場(温泉)の利用が一般的でした。そのため古い民家には今もお風呂がない家が多いです。また、最近では自宅のお風呂に温泉をひいている家も珍しくありません。
201312-4-2

別府温泉の景観


大分を一日でまわるなら、まずは別府インターから車で5分の「地獄めぐり」から。青い「海地獄」から赤い「血の池地獄」まで8つの源泉が見られます。それぞれ熱いお湯がすさまじい勢いで噴出し、雄大な地球のエネルギーを体感できます。この蒸気を利用して高温で一気に蒸し上げた地獄蒸し料理や地獄蒸しプリンが人気です。
地獄めぐりから車で40分の「湯の坪街道」(由布市)も人気の観光地です。通り沿いには、土産物店や飲食店などが並びます。通りを1本外れた大分川沿いは、季節ごとの景色が楽しめる散策スポットです。そこから歩いて15分の金鱗湖は湖の底から温泉がわき出ています。冬の朝は湖面から霧が立ち上る幻想的な光景が見られます。
金鱗湖から車で50分行くと、「九重“夢”大吊橋」(九重町)があります。長さ390メートル、高さは173メートルで、日本一の人道専用の吊橋です。橋の上からは九重連山や九酔渓、震動の滝、鳴子川渓谷の美しい景色が楽しめます。くじゅう花公園・久住高原(竹田市)はそこから車で45分。九重連山を背景に広がる園内には、季節を通してチューリップやラベンダー、コスモスなどさまざまな花が咲きます。
201312-4-3

宇佐神宮


九重連山の北側に位置するタデ原湿原(九重町)は、火山地形の扇状地にできた湿原です。2005年に坊ガツル湿原とともにラムサール条約に登録されました。湿原と周辺の森林内には自然研究路が設置され、自由に散策することができます。
歴史に興味のある人は臼杵石仏(臼杵市)へ。自然の崖に彫られた仏像で、国宝に指定されています。4群60以上の石仏があり、12世紀頃に彫られたのではないかといわれています。近くの石仏公園では季節ごとに花が楽しめますが、7~8月には大きなハスの花が咲くのでおすすめです。他にも大分市の大分元町石仏や亀塚古墳、豊後大野市の菅尾石仏などがあります。
宇佐神宮(宇佐市)は全国に4万以上ある八幡社の総本宮です。境内は広く、一周するだけで1時間ほどかかります。国宝である本殿をはじめ、朱色に塗られた社殿が多いのが特徴です。10年に一度使用される屋根付きの橋や庭も見どころです。参道にはたくさんのお土産屋が並びます。
201312-4-4

酢屋の坂


杵築市には江戸時代(17~19世紀)の町並みが残っています。なかでも、高台にある武家屋敷と商人の町とをつないだ「酢屋の坂」と「志保屋の坂」は、美しい景観のためドラマや映画の撮影にもよく使われます。散歩する前に和楽庵へ。ここで着物を着付けてもらえば(2,000円)、杵築城や資料館などの入館料が無料になります。日本語が話せなくても問題ありませんが、事前に連絡すれば英語での対応が可能です。
自然にふれたい人は、稲積水中鍾乳洞(豊後大野市)へ。ここは世界でも珍しい大規模な水中鍾乳洞です。20万年前の氷河期から発達した、数え切れないほどの鍾乳石が見られます。水の深さは40メートル以上です。また、由布川峡谷(由布市)では神秘的な景観が楽しめます。深さ20~50メートルのV字型の峡谷が続き、いく筋にも分かれて落ちる水やなめらかな岩肌は天然の芸術品です。
201312-4-5

稲積水中鍾乳洞


最近では韓国生まれの「オルレ」が注目を集めています。地図を片手に、コースに設置されたリボンを目印にして景色を楽しみながらのんびりと歩きます。オルレとは、韓国・済州島の方言で、家に帰る細い道を意味します。九州に8コースありますが、大分では朝地駅(豊後大野市)から出発し、美しい農村風景を眺めながら公園や寺などを巡ります。ゴールは豊後竹田駅(竹田市)で、約12キロ(所要時間5~6時間)の道のりです。
自然に恵まれた大分にはおいしいものがたくさんあります。干しいたけや麦焼酎は全国に知られていますし、関アジや関サバは高級ブランドです。通常サバは焼いて食べますが、これは刺身で食べられます。柑橘類の一つ、カボスの生産量は全国の97%を占めます。そのほとんどを県内で消費しており、刺身や漬け物、ビールなどにもカボスの汁をかけます。鶏肉に天ぷらの衣を付けて揚げたとり天は定番の郷土料理であり家庭料理です。
201312-4-6

関サバ


大分県観光ガイドブックには割引などの特典が得られるクーポン券が付いています。JR別府駅内や別府駅前通りでは英語、韓国語、中国語の案内が受けられます。「フレンドリーガイド」というサービスは、連絡すれば英語でのガイドを頼むことができます。(2時間3,000円。交通費は自己負担)
JR東京駅から大分駅までは、途中小倉で乗り継ぎ、新幹線で約6時間30分です。羽田空港(東京)から大分空港までは約1時間30分。大分空港ではベルトコンベアーで手荷物を待っていると、えびやうにの寿司の模型が一緒に回ってきます。
ツーリズムおおいた

Leave a Reply