Being German, luckily I don’t have a big problem with nudity. We go to the sauna naked (not like in England!), have nudist beaches (which I don’t frequent but I can tolerate it) and many public swimming pools or sports facilities don’t have cubicle showers. So I’m used to it, which was advantageous for my stay in Beppu where I spent a lot of my time in my birthday suit. But let’s take a step back to put this into perspective.
Japan has a lot of volcanoes and therefore also a lot of hotsprings (called “onsen”).
There’s a big tradition of bathing in this hot water. It is one of my favourite things to do in Japan. There’s a whole procedure around it where you have to shower first, sitting on a tiny stool next to lots of other people who are scrubbing themselves vigorously, rinse, put more shower gel, scrub some more… Definitely no dirt left on anyone afterwards (and sometimes I wonder if some even have any skin left after all this scrubbing). And then you can get into the bath.
Of course all this is done naked (gender separated), which is why you need to be pretty relaxed about it!
Beppu is the city in Japan with the most hot springs. They have lots of different bath houses with natural onsen. All different types of water temperatures and different minerals which help with this and that ailment. I don’t really understand the science behind the health benefits but I just enjoy sitting in the hot water and letting my mind wander.
Here’s a very small and simple bath house.
And here’s a footbath which you can just sit down at and use for free (only foot nudity required).
I went to a larger bath house which had several pools indoors and outdoors and even a little waterfall. No photos of the bathing area for obvious reasons.
But this is the court yard which led to all the different baths (red for women, blue for men) and it also had a restaurant and some other features.
These were the wooden slippers that everyone had to wear. Shoes had to be handed in at the entrance.
Eggs cooked in the hot spring steam.
My lunch at the restaurant.
Hot spring steam for your throat! Please inhale in front of the pipes *cough*
You could also steam your own lunch in the hot spring steam in this area.
They had cute busses!
There were also natural hot springs that you could visit but not bathe in because they are too hot. Very beautiful to look at though. In between the groups of tourists that were shuffled through. Luckily a lot of Asian tourist groups are in a hurry. They come, take photos of each other in front of whatever site they’re at and disappear within 10 minutes. And then it’s my turn to take photos and actually sit and enjoy the scenery.
One of the hot springs had an alligator breeding area as apparently the hot steam conditions are good for these creatures. There were so many lying around in the sun and at first I thought that they weren’t real because they didn’t make a single move. But then I saw an eye move a tiny bit. And I discovered a trickle of what looked like fresh blood on the lips of some of them. Scary!
See the basket? That’s where they are cooking eggs.
And this is what parts of the town looked like. It was steaming from every gutter and pothole. Unfortunately you can’t really see it in the photos. And you can’t smell the sulphur that was hanging in the air at all times. Rotten egg smell everywhere.
A greenhouse heated by hot spring steam.
In the evening I went to a hotel hot spring on a hill and sat in the hot water outside, overlooking Beppu bay and watching the sunset. Perfection!
The next day was a wonderful sunny morning (that’s the great thing when the typhoon is gone – it takes all the clouds with it). I went to this outdoor bath with a view of the beach and the sea.
All in all, Beppu is probably one of my favourite places in Japan from what I’ve seen so far. And I certainly felt very clean from the constant bathing!
All photos taken by me with my LC-Wide on 35mm film.