Sep 7, 2018
We spent a weekend in Oita Prefecture in August, using the seasonally available JR Seishun 18 Kippu to get there and back. That means only the slow trains are allowed so it takes longer, but we can ride trains as much as we want for the days we use the ticket.
The route for the first day was from Kurume Station via Hita Station to Yufuin first.
Yufuin was crowded! Highlights were a Snoopy cafe, black sesame soy soft serve (we also had the golden sesame milk soft serve, but the photo was blurry), and the view near the tiny 'lake' (more like pond). There's a new info building near the station (Yufuinfo, hah) where they have free wi-fi and a little sitting area. There was a view of the limited express train Yufu no Mori too.
After a few hours exploring Yufuin, we continued via Oita Station to Beppu Station, where we spent the night. (It took around three hours for the whole train ride. The view is really nice anyway.) We went to Toyotsune for the tempura again – the main restaurant is right next to where we stayed!
Beppu Station has a statue out front (pikapika no ojisan) who is wearing a special rugby uniform because Oita is hosting the Rugby World Cup this year.
Beppu City has tons of onsen, but we had one in the guesthouse we stayed at so we just used it instead of going to the other onsen areas. The water in the Beppu Onsen area is super hot and at the guesthouse in Kitahama, the water they use is 53 degrees Celcius! It feels really great after a little traveling, but we can't stay in for very long.
While in Beppu City, we mostly walked around and ate at a buffet restaurant in Kamenoi Hotel. We used the Kamenoi City Bus Mini Free Pass (900 yen) to go to a viewpoint that has a good night view of the bay. It was just okay – the bus ride was around 30 minutes each way, but we only spent five or ten minutes looking at the view. I think it would be worth it to go before it gets dark out to see the daytime view too.
We went into Oita City using the Oita Kotsu bus (280 yen one way) – just a few kilometers from Beppu. There we went to the Takasakiyama Monkey Park. Discount tickets (20% off) are in some hotels, but entrance is only 510 yen for adults. There's a new monkey museum near the aquarium UmiTamago on the other side of the highway. It's free to enter. We checked out the gift shop for the aquarium, but it was closing soon, we were tired, and it was so crowded!
In Oita City, we visited the castle ruins where there was metal scaffolding in the shape of the original castle. I'm not sure when they did that, but when I went six years ago it wasn't there. We had a nice time feeding pigeons and koi, but it was really hot and the station area was super crowded. We accidentally were there for the Ice Wonderland event, so of course we had some ice cream. Even the toilets in Oita Station have these sort of onsen curtains decorating them.
On the way home, we had a couple hour long waits at some stations with nothing at all around. It was hot and uncomfortable and we just wanted to get home. If you can get the timing right, the Seishun 18 Kippu is an affordable way to travel during the holidays.