Jigoku Meguri (Beppu Hell Tour) is a famous sightseeing tour including seven nearby hot springs. Beppu hells (Jigoku) are unique hot springs that reach over 100 degrees Celsius and are the most renowned attraction in Beppu. In the olden days, people assumed those places were cursed because of the gas and water bubbling up and hence called them hells.
Chinoike and Tatsumaki Jigoku are in the Shibaseki district, while Shiraike, Oniyama, Kamado, Umi, and Oniishi Bozu Jigoku are in the Kannawa district. Technically, there are eight Hells, but Yama Jigoku is not included in the Jigoku Meguri ticket (Hells pass). Each of the hot springs offers a unique experience and incredible views.
Umi Jigoku, Sea Hellis the largest and one of the most picturesque hells. It features a bright, milk-like cobalt blue water pond, from which the name – Sea hell is derived. The color is natural and results from naturally high levels of iron sulfate. Its temperature reaches 98°C, so don’t think about taking a dip there.
Thermal water also provides a perfect environment for exotic plants spread all around spacious gardens. There are also smaller ponds on the premises, including a small red-orange hot spring called Akaike Jigoku and a lotus pond.
Once you are done walking around the gardens, you might want to relax your foot in a foot bath, try eggs boiled in hot spring water or a pudding and sweet buns steamed in hot spring steam. Boiled eggs are one of Umi Jigoku’sJigoku’s specialties as they are boiled in the waters of Umi Jigoku.
Oniishibouzu Jigoku, translated as Oniishi Bald Monk Hell, is known for its muddy bubbles created at the pond’s surface looking like a bald monk’s head.
It used to be one big pond, but the owner created paths on top of it and separated the pond into several smaller ones for a better viewing experience.
Nearby, there is a lovely onsen called Oniishi no Yu. After the whole day of running around, it was a perfect place to stop and relax, enjoying a hot bath with my boyfriend.
Yama Jigoku or Mountain Hell. Located between Kamado and Umi Jigoku, it is the only hell that is not included in Hell’s Pass. They had a small zoo on the premises, where you could feed some animals like goats and capybara.
This was one Hells we were not big fans of. When we arrived, the workers went to the capybaras’ enclosure to get them out to interact with us, and that didn’t sit well with us. We are all for protecting animals, and it felt like animals in this zoo are used to generate money rather than to preserve anything.
Kamado Jigoku or Cooking Pot Hell is one of the most interesting hells, showcasing six distinct types of hot springs, each with different characteristics. The name came from a tool called Kamado, which was used for cooking rice used in an offering during the grand festival of the shrine god in Kamado Hachimangu Shrine.
You can find there two muddy bubbling hells that are similar to Oniishi Bozu Jigoku. In one of them, the staff showed us some tricks when they blew a lighted cigarette towards the vent, producing a large cloud of steam from it. The sapphire blue hell looks similar to Umi Jigoku, but it owes its blue color to the silica it contains. On the other hand, the red hell nearby owes its color to iron contained in the soil.
There is a possibility of taking a bath in a private onsen, Kamado no Yu. Ask for the details at the east ticket office entrance, where they will give you the key. The onsen is free of charge when you have an entrance ticket, but many people miss it because there are no English signs.
When you are done walking around, sit and relax your tired legs in a hot foot bath. It was precisely what my legs needed after so many steps.
If you wonder how the water from hell tastes, you can also try drinking it. There is an area where you could get a sip, though be careful the water is boiling hot.
Try also a special egg that is steam-cooked for over 24 hours in one of the hells. Its shell looks normal, but the color of the egg is different, and so is the taste.
Kamado Jigoku is famous for the “Red Demon” soft ice cream, with seven-spice seasoning on top. We haven’t tried it, so I can’t say how good it is.
Oniyama Jigoku, translated to Monster Mountain Hell, is home to 80 or so crocodiles. It was interesting to see those animals close by, but I can’t help but wonder if there is enough space for all of them. The area seemed extremely small compared to the number of animals living there.
Oniyama Jigoku started keeping crocodiles here in 1922, so soon, they will have their 100th anniversary. There is also an exhibition about the animals to learn more about them, their anatomy, and history. Depending on the day of your visit, you may catch the crocodile feedings.
Shiraike Jigoku, translated as White Pond Hell, owes its name to the milky-bluish white-colored pond, with the temperature reaching 95°C.
This hell offers two main attractions besides the pond itself: a tranquil traditional Japanese garden surrounding the pond and an aquarium where you can see an assortment of tropical fish raised in waters warmed by hot spring.
Chinoike Jigoku, or Blood Pond Hell, lies in Shibaseki District and is one of Japan’s oldest natural hot springs. The name is derived from its bloody vivid red mud containing iron oxide, magnesium oxide, and similar materials that react to temperature and pressure. The mud from Chinoike Jigoku, is said to have healing properties and has been used for ages in medicine and dyes.
Tatsumaki Jigoku, or Tornado Hell, is located in Shibaseki District, 3 km away from the other hells. This hot spring features a geyser that erupts every 30-40 minutes and lasts for 6 to 10 minutes.
The sight of the hot spring sending a jet of water and steam into the air is a sight to behold. If not for a roof built to protect the surrounding, the geyser could shoot 20-30 meters into the air. The erupting water can reach up to 150°C.
It’s such a rare sight that Tatsumaki Jigoku has been designated as a natural monument!
Entrance to each Hell costs 400 ¥ (as of November 2019), and if you are interested in visiting all seven of them (Yama Jigoku not included), then buying Jigoku Meguri Pass is a good deal for you. The pass costs 2000¥, giving you access to the seven hells in Kannawa and Shibaseki districts over two days.
You can get the Jigoku Meguri Pass at the Beppu Station Visitor Information Center or at the entrance of each hell.
Additionally, you can check the official webpage to see if any discounts are available.
In addition to the ticket, we also got a small booklet to collect stamps from all hells 🙂
How to get there
You can either walk or take a bus to where the hells are located. We just got a single ticket on the bus as we didn’t use busses that much but you can get a city bus pass called My Beppu Free Passport (Mini or Wide). You can use this pass to travel around Beppu city, Uchinari Rice Terrace, and Kijima Kogen park areas. They can be purchased at Beppu Station Visitor Information Center.