Delicate patterns of kimono. Fresh, raw fish. Stately, old, wooden houses. Hidden hot springs surrounded by nature. I would be surrounded by Japanese friends, eating delicious and well-balanced meals everyday, and of course, radiate beauty with the help of weekly onsen use. This is the kind of life I imagined leading before I moved to Japan. That dream was not so simple of a process, however. And though it took me a year, I am finally learning to sink myself into Japan like a first hot spring. That is because I, Alyssa, a former English teacher, have found myself with a new job and a new home in Beppu, Japan.
For some context, it was not long ago that I was living in the nearby prefectural capital of Oita City. Oita, though a nice city in its own right, has little for those interested in traditional Japanese culture. So, I felt isolated; I was technically in Japan, yet still separated from the people and the culture. Each week was spent teaching English, talking about America, and navigating through the same concrete blocks everyday. I was living in my own personal America.
(the harbor near my house)
But then I relocated, and everything changed. As a newcomer to Beppu, Japan’s top hot spring town, I was thrilled to read about the onsen lifestyle and the ways locals take advantage of living here. Beppu sits on the ocean, has beautiful mountainside views, and wonderful onsens are always nearby. For the first time since moving to Japan one year ago, I feel like I finally have access to Japan and its culture, in part, through the steaming waters running through this city. Kitahama’s Termas, in particular, has become a personal favorite of mine in this short time. And in fact, I have found my own way of enjoying Beppu’s onsen.
(a view from my jogging trail)
On my days off, I make it a point to get my exercise and and onsen in to feel completely re-energized. Luckily, Termas, located in Beppu’s Kitahama area, is well within jogging distance of anyone staying near Beppu Station or along the beach. On a sunny day, with all my bathing needs stored in my backpack, I head out of my sharehouse and start my jog from the ferry terminal along the oceanside. Fifteen minutes later, now a little sweaty and out of breath, I arrive at the onsen.
(exterior of Kitahama Termas)
A nice thing about this onsen is there is always someone present to greet you inside. The staff directs me to the women’s bath and I make my way past the hanging curtain to the changing room. Shed of my damp workout clothes, I step inside the bathing area and a woman greets me with a “konnichiwa (Hello in Japanese).” I rinse myself of the sweat of my workout and the stress of my work week. Soon, I am ready to sink into the steamy waters.
At Termas, though the women’s and men’s section alternates every two weeks on Monday, both sections have several baths. Long, wooden logs partition a large bath into heightening levels of warmth. A small, but cozy outdoor bath sits just beyond a glass door. And if you are lucky, you may be able to enjoy a steam bath next to the hot spring mouth as I recently did. I often hop in and out of the different baths. First, I usually soak in the area farthest from the spring source which is only warm to acclimate myself. Then I will slowly make my way to the hottest part of the bath. Just when my body starts to get overwhelmed by the heat, I get out and make my way to the outdoor bath. The coolness of the fresh air in contrast to the sultry waters adds a new dimension to the experience. I stare up at the sky, release all the tension in my body and forget everything else.
(my friend at the outdoor bath)
These times of focusing on our own well-being are crucial to both our mental and physical health. For those stressed out by everyday struggles, I insist that Beppu is the place to be. You can immerse yourself in the serene beauty of Japanese culture and enjoy the wonders of nature to feel a little more connected and a little more at peace.
OPEN：10:00〜22:00 (last entry 21:00)
FEE：700 YEN (child 350yen)
How to get to Beppu, where Kitahama Termas is located.
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