Unlike previous Enjoy Onsen articles, we would like to introduce you to someone who works on the facilities side of the Beppu Onsen. We interviewed an artist, Mr. Katsu, who is also one of the Suehiro Onsen managers. Through him, we wanted to explore the life and art of the Beppu Onsen and the local people.
Artist Migrants and Beppu Onsen
Mr. Katsu is a contemporary artist who first came to Beppu in 2009 through the Beppu Project (an art NPO based in Beppu). Then he moved from Tokyo to Beppu and started to live in Kiyoshima Apartments, a homebase for a wide range of artists from all over the country to live and create art. Mr. Katsu has now been living and contributing to the Beppu Onsen and local community for 12 years.
Beppu Art Tour with Katsu-san
Would you like to experience Beppu with an artist? Are you interested in exploring Beppu’s ancient architecture and contemporary art?
You can take a tour of Beppu with Mr. Katsu who has an in-depth understanding of the history and customs of Beppu. You will walk through the streets of Beppu and discover the mark left by the people and art of different generations. On the tour, you will enjoy the murals of Okamoto Taro and the architecture of Takegawara Onsen as well as visit the artists’ residences in the Kiyoshima Apartments. The walking tour can also be personalized to suit your specific interests.
Photo by Koichiro Fujimoto
Mr. Katsu and Communal Onsen (hot spring)
As we mentioned, Mr. Katsu is also the communal Onsen-Suehiro Onsen manager. You may wonder, what is the connection between being an artist and an onsen manager?
Well, let’s start with Suehiro Onsen.
Suehiro Onsen is a communal hot spring (also known as Kyodo onsen in Japanese) in Beppu. Unlike commercial hot springs, the communal hot spring is an integral part of the life of the local people.
It can be said that communal baths are at the heart of local life, gathering residents together and sharing the beauty of living in an onsen town.
This type of onsen is primarily for the residents to enjoy, so the fee is inexpensive and is mainly collected for cleaning and maintenance. For Suehiro Onsen, residents can become a member for 2,000 yen per month and have unlimited access the onsen.
It is believed that there are more than 100 communal hot springs in Beppu City; most of those onsens pour fresh pumps out of the hot spring directly into the tub. This is considered very luxurious to other towns with limited onsen sources.
Suehiro Onsen is a communal hot spring for the residents of the Suehiro area, where the Kiyoshima Apartments are located and Mr. Katsu lives. Unfortunately, the onsen was closed in March 2020. Now, through the efforts of the residents and Mr. Katsu, the onesen has reopened and is again a place for local residents to interact and enjoy. And, of course, Mr. Katsu is still in charge of managing the onsen.
Suehiro Onsen is a Simple Onsen type and the temperature at the source is over 60°C (around 43°C after adjustment). The baths feature murals of Mt. Tsurumi (men’s bath wall) and Mt. Yufu (women’s bath wall).
To know more about Suehiro Onsen murals, check out our previous article, Onsen & Art: Suehiro Onsen.
Local wisdom of communal hot spring management
The Beppu region has a unique way of managing the communal hot spring. By creating a difference between the height of the hot spring and the area where it flows, the hot spring water flows out continuously.
Before soaking into the onsen, people directly use the hot spring water from the bathtub to wash their body. So, the fresh hot spring water flows continuously into the hot spring tub to fill.
This ensures that the water is clean and at the right temperature and the locals continue to manage the hot springs in this effortless and efficient way.
Enjoy the Onsen with locals!
Would you like to experience Beppu Onsen with the resident artists? Take a trip to the most authentic Beppu hot springs in the region. You can come and enjoy the communal hot spring!
OPEN: 7:00~11:00 / 14:00~22:00 (closed on the 15th of every month)
FEE: 200 YEN (Half-price for students and younger, Free for preschool children)