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Oita Starts Here

Wedged into the northeastern corner of Kyushu (itself far from the most-visited place in Japan), Oita is a prefecture that’s easy to miss if you aren’t looking. Thankfully, I was.

Like many travelers, I first visited Oita because I wanted to experience the hot springs capital of Beppu. I stayed a while and continued exploring beyond that, however—and I’m so glad I did.

Which is not to say my Oita travel guide is comprehensive. It isn’t; I’ve got a lot more work today. But if you’ve never been to Oita (and certainly, if you never thought to visit until just now), this should be exactly what you need (and then some!).

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Where to Base Yourself in Oita Prefecture

As you might imagine, many of the most interesting Oita hotels are in Beppu. This is not just because they tend to feature hot springs, but because many pair this feature with amazing ocean views. In particular, I’m thinking of properties in the city such as Umino Hotel Hajime, but even the big-box ANA Intercontinental Beppu up on the hill above it allows you to take a dip while gazing out at the sea.

Beyond this, you could of course choose to base yourself in Oita city, likely at a business hotel such as Hotel Forza Oita. Prefer to stay a night on the Kunisaki Peninsula, rather than simply doing a day trip? Guesthouse Return in Kitsuki and Hotel R9 Nakatsu near Usa Shrine are two extremely unique options that are the definition of being off-the-beaten-path.

My Favorite Things to Do in Oita Prefecture

Take a dip at Beppu Onsen


The hot springs city of Beppu is, not surprisingly, the most popular place to visit in Oita (although some people opt for its more traditional—but not necessarily less touristy— sister town of Yufuin). I prefer Beppu, however, both because it offers sea views (Yufuin is nestled in the mountains), but also because of the Seven Hells, colorful onsen where you can’t swim, but that are amazing for photography.

Forest bathe on the Kunisaki Peninsula


I’d be remiss if I didn’t include the superlative Kunisaki Peninsula in this Oita itinerary. Usually seen on a day trip from Beppu (and with a private car, in case you weren’t already considering renting one), this heavily wooded piece of heaven is home to many attractions. Among them are the Samurai-era town of Kitsuki, the forest-bathing destination of Futago-ji temple and the peaceful Usa Shrine.

Dine on Bungo-gyu


Did you know that Oita is home to its own famous beef? While not as world-renowned as the wa-gyu served in Kobe or Matsusaka, bungo-gyu is nonetheless delicious and worth tasting. Chances are good that any high-quality beef you see served in higher-end restaurants throughout the prefecture is this sort of beef, but you can always ask your hotel to recommend a spot that serves it.

Continue onward to Kumamoto


Although this is an Oita travel blog, I recognized the fact that Oita is a prefecture that serves as connective tissue for a trip to Kyushu, rather than the primary muscle of it. One way this manifests is that many travelers head down through the mountains to Mt. Aso, in Kumamoto prefecture, whether via Kurokawa Onsen or directly to the mountain and the various activities it offers. 

(Or Miyazaki…or Shikoku)


Already visited Kumamoto on your way to Oita? An alternative path is to head southward to Miyazaki. This is something of a sister prefecture to Oita—similarly idyllic, but more coastal and slightly more tropical. If you’re really adventurous you could even travel by ferry to Shikoku island’s Ehime prefecture, but that might be an instance where you enlist my professional help.

How Many Days Do You Need in Oita?

Oita prefecture isn’t huge, but it can be slow-going. On the other hand, since you’ll probably be here in the context of other Kyushu prefectures (as opposed to à la carte), that can make it easier. For instance, you might choose to devote two weeks to the island as a whole, or a week to the east coast of it. This would average out to around 2-3 days in Oita, which is plenty for most travelers.

And what about how many days in Oita to spend it you do just want to visit the prefecture? This is a lot more open-ended. If you wanted to focus on hot springs, for instance, you could sleep 2-3 nights each in Beppu and Yufuin. You could make it a full week, and spend an additional couple of nights on the Kunisaki Peninsula, or even if Oita city if that’s your jam.

Other FAQ About Visiting Oita Prefecture

Is Oita worth visiting?

Oita prefecture is definitely worth visiting, whether you focus on the famous hot springs city of Beppu, or go off the beaten path on the underrated Kunisaki Peninsula. Oita City isn’t a bad place to visit, but isn’t near as interesting as most of the other prefectural capitals in Kyushu.

How do you get around Oita?

If you simply plan to stay in Beppu, Yufuin or Oita city, you can get around using a combination of public transportation and your own two feet. If you want to explore more broadly, on the other hand, it might be a good idea to consider renting a car.

How do you get from Tokyo to Oita?

You have two main options to get from Tokyo to Oita. The first is to take one of many nonstop flights from Haneda Airport to Oita Airport. The second is to get from Tokyo to Fukuoka (either by flying, or going by Shinkansen to Hakata Station), then continuing onward from there to Oita via the Sonic Limited Express train.

The Bottom Line

I hope my Oita travel guide has helped you put your trip together—or, at least, planted the seed of inspiration. Oita’s remote and not an obvious place to visit, so even I (as a Japan expert who’s literally been to every prefecture in the country) have had some difficulty digging deeply into it. On the other hand, because it’s so far off Japan’s beaten path, even “typical” experiences here feel unique and exclusive, and you sometimes even have places all to yourself. Need personalized help putting your Japan adventure together, whether or not Oita is part of it? Consider hiring me to plan your trip!


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