The Eight Hells Of Beppu: there isn’t a much more evocative name than that, is there?
The Eight Hells are in fact a series of heated lakes (onsen) in the area around the seaside spa city of Beppu in Japan. The area sits on a huge amount of geothermal water: it’s the second largest area of heated water in the world and Beppu itself is a city of hot springs with around 80 public bathhouses.
The internet seems to disagree on whether there are in fact eight or nine hells, so since I’ve found nine of them, I’m just going to list them all.
The Buddhist concept of the tortures and torments of hell, and the pools’ association with the fiery underworld, meant that the Japanese avoided the area for years. But these days the lakes of sulphurous mud, minerals and weirdly tinted water are quite a tourist attraction, so be prepared for a little tackiness and some crowds. Animals are kept in a couple of them as well, most likely not in five star conditions.
Here they are, and remember to watch out for the fabulous bonus hell!
Sea, Ocean or Aquamarine Hell, the name of course refers to this pond’s pale turquoise hue. Eggs boiled in the waters are sold in a stall beside the pond.
The shapes formed by the boiling mud bubbles have given this pool its name, Shaven Monk’s Head Hell. You can kinda see why, and you wouldn’t really want to fall in there. There’s also a foot bath in this area and a public bath with multiple pools.
White Pond Hell is named after the milky appearance of the water. Not unlike the water at the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, the minerals present in the hot pool is what makes the mud white. Also on site is a small aquarium with tropical fish like piranha. Again, none of the heat from the pool is wasted – the aquarium is heated by it.
Cooking Pot Hell consists of a number of small pools and this little demon fellow is resident cook. Hot and cold spring water is available to drink, and you can dip your hands or feet in the slightly cooler pools. Food is cooked in the water and steam and sold around these pools.
Crocodiles and alligators have been bred on this site since the 12th year of the Taisho period (less interestingly, 1923) and today there are over 80 types of them in the pools. I can’t imagine they have enough room.
20 breeds of animal including Shoehei-Kun the hippopotamus live at Mountain Hell. Monkeys, flamingos and elephants are some of the others in the zoo at this lake. The conditions they’re living in are apparently abysmal. I’ve certainly seen a photo of an elephant with very little room to roam around.
Bonus Hell! Kinryu Jigoku
Ok, don’t get too excited. Golden Dragon Hell features a dragon statue with steam issuing from its mouth. I’m told the light at sunset makes it look as if the dragon is flying.
Very much resembling Batchelors Beef & Tomato Cup A Soup, the fierce temperatures in this pool were perhaps put to terrible use: torturing and boiling people to death. If anyone knows who this happened to, or when, I’d love to know as I haven’t been able to find out if it’s true or not. There’s a large souvenir stall on site.
- Tatsumaki Jigoku (Spout Hell) Pic Wikimedia
Japan has its very own spouting geyser at Spout Hell. It erupts every 30-40 minutes for a period of 6-10 minutes at a time. There’s a metal plate above it to stop it reaching its full height. It has a temperature of 105 degrees Celsius.
Visiting the Eight Hells of Beppu & Bonus Hell
The first six plus Bonus Hell! are within walking distance of each other in the Kannawa district. The other two are slightly further out in the Shibaseki district and all of them have free parking facilities. Details on bus times can be found here http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4702.html