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Free Illumination with a Free Ride
Price: 0 yen
This is one of those things we almost didn't do. Completely forgot as it was a rainy day and we headed back to the hostel early to relax in the manga room. It was already dark but still early when I remembered. We were comfortable and considering hitting the onsen to go to bed early, but it was our last night in town and the last chance to do this. I jumped up convinced we should take the opportunity and we got ready to go out quickly.
From Beppu Station there is a free shuttle bus at a rent-a-car called Times Car, with yellow banners, near the west exit bus center. The shuttle bus goes every 30 minutes on weekdays and every 15 minutes on weekends. It takes about 15 minutes to go up the hill.
We were dropped off in front of the hotel and it was possible to go inside and look around, but the illumination was outside. Walking uphill, the lights are all along the main street, including on the 7-11 building. The Suginoi Palace is also right there, so we can go into the arcade and gift shops, but need to pay for the water park and bowling inside. There is an even more elaborate set up for Christmas time that they were already working on, but the normal illumination is already so big. It's a random assortment of animals that don't really go together, wrapped trees, and carriages - lots of lights.
We got lucky because it mostly stopped raining while we were there. It took about 30 minutes to walk around taking pictures and look in the gift shops. We waited at the same building for a ride back to the station.
If it's a clear day, it might be nice to go up before it gets dark out and enjoy the view. The night view is also not bad and must be awesome from the hotel's big outdoor bath.
The best part is that this is totally free. We don't have to be hotel guests (although I'm sure the illumination is good marketing) and we don't even have to walk or pay to take a bus up the hill. I think this is a valid recommendation, especially if you like free outings.