Oita, in the Kyushu island of Japan, is one of the best onsen (thermal hot springs) areas in the country. A popular destination for domestic and foreign tourists, it’s full of attractions. The most visited cities are Beppu and Yufuin. Find out below the best things to do in Oita with kids.
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We spent our days in Yufuin, with a stop in Beppu, before heading to Shikoku. We had 3 days, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
Where to stay in Yufuin, Japan
We stayed at the Yufuin Kotobuki Hananosho, a ryokan with private onsen (Japan), which fit all our requirements.
We absolutely loved it. It’s a big ryokan (a Japanese traditional inn) with private onsen (Japanese hot springs), but it also has a communal bath. The meals are served in a restaurant, which is better in my opinion – no fear or dropping soup onto the tatami.
It’s super close to the main street, and right in front of a coin laundry and a convenience store (life saving).
It also has a big and free parking lot, which is great. If you come by train, it’s also close to the train station (around 10 minutes walk).
I think it must be one of the prettiest Yufuin private onsen, it was just so beautiful. I’d sit there and forget about life.
What to do in Yufuin, Oita, with kids
Most of the attractions are at Yunotsubu Kaiko (Yufuin Main Street), and it’s good because it’s easy to find everything. Just be aware that it’s super crowded, so go early in the morning (they open at around 9, it depends on the season) or right before closing (at around 5, again, season depending). But it’s so pretty, it’s worth a stop anyway.
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Kirinko (Kirin Lake)
This is a lake in Yufuin. It’s fed by onsen water (it means it smells). It has koi, a communal onsen on the side, and a little temple too.
It’s pretty, but it’s also very, very crowded. It’s way better early in the morning, when the steam is up and giving the lake a beautiful ethereal look. And it’s also a lot more empty.
There are many signs talking about this tiny water creature that lives only in those waters – we didn’t find any.
Dr. Kiss Fish
A foot bath where the fish eat the dead skin off your feet? Well, the kids didn’t want to try it, but Angelo and I did and I need to warn those ticklish people: it tickles. A lot.
They have small fish (pictured) and big fish tanks. We tried both. The big fish are a lot less ticklish, though they are creepier.
Well, I’m not trying again anytime soon. But the feet do come out of it a lot smoother.
Ghibli Shop (Donguri no Mori)
OK, I’m a Ghibli addict (Hello, Totoro) and I needed to stop there. The little shop is adorable and everyone stops to take a photo with the Totoro at the front of the store. Go in and enjoy a little magic.
This cute little part of the street is full of adorable streets, but I was advised by my kids to not go. They said it was full of enclosed animals and I was bound to feel sad.
This is where the Kiki Bakery used to be – it’s not there anymore.
Showa Retro Park
A little museum/park that shows Japan as it used to be a while ago, during the Showa era (1926~1989). We decided not to go in, as we wouldn’t feel any familiarity and we had no real curiosity, but if you have the time…
Try out the many delicious foods
We tried so many delicious food there, but one of my favorites were Milch and their custard pudding. So good.
But head to all the stores, try out the biscuits, the speciality soy sauces, the Japanese treats, the capes and pancakes, the ice creams and popsicles, and everything else. It’s all delicious.
Traditional Crafts Center
The building is so beautiful, it’s worth a stop even if you’re not buying anything. They sell lots of crafts, and they’re amazing, albeit pricey. There are cool things, different things, and pure art work.
Visit the little shops
We bought ourselves some wooden mugs (beautiful), but we were also tempted at engraving our own chopsticks, and getting some Japanese sandals, or many other things. Just look around and choose carefully.
This mountain is beautiful, so beautiful. It gives amazing views of the city, and it’s worth a stop. There are many hiking trails and lookouts, so go with time or just drive by like we did. Either way, it’s great.
Beppu Tourist Attractions
We had only a few hours in Beppu, so we didn’t do anything but Takasakiyama Monkey Park. But here’s everything we’d like to have done:
- Hells of Beppu: Colorful thermal lakes? Something like Yellowstone in the USA. Sad we didn’t get to see it, though.
- Beppu Sand Spa: the volcanic activities make the sand warm and it’s an alternative to the thermal waters. You are buried in the sand (face off, of course), and you lay there, absorbing the minerals and the goodness, and napping or meditating.
- Beppu Bamboo Crafts Center: a craft center with all things bamboo? Oh, I’d love to. Too bad we didn’t have the time.
This looks like a zoo, but isn’t. It’s a mountain, where Japanese macaques live. So a nature reserve was built to keep the monkeys safe and they built a lot of things to keep visiting humans happy.
The monkeys are free. They can stay on the mountain, leave it, climb to the top and never come back (as one of the groups actually did). There’s no fence for them, but for the humans.
Humans can’t touch the monkeys. Can’t run after them. Can’t hurt them. Can’t also cross the lines. So, even if you don’t do animal attractions, this is a safe one.
There are many monkeys. We went on the monorail (lazy people) and we saw some on the trees on the way. They aren’t scared of humans, but they may feel threatened by you, so try not to stare or make sudden movements.
Tips for visiting Takasakiyama Monkey Park
- During spring (March to June), there are babies – highly recommend it, they’re ADORABLE.
- You can climb the mountain on foot (there’s a 10 minute path) or on a monorail (2 minutes), but it’s paid (¥100).
- A visit to the park is paid and costs ¥510 (15+), ¥250 (6~14) and it’s free for those under 6.
- Parking is paid: ¥410 per car.
- It’s open from 8:30 am to 5 pm (last entry is at 4:30 pm).
- Keep your valuables inside a closed bag.
- Don’t try to touch the monkeys, run after them, yell, or even stare.
- They feed the monkey once every 30 minutes, but 2x a day they feed them a special sweet potato meal, which is when more monkeys come around. This happens at the end of the monorail stop, called Saru Yoseba .
- They have this rock shaped in the face of a monkey (it’s huge) and, if you find it, it brings you luck!
- There’s a monkey museum there too, but it’s one room where they talk about the monkeys, shops, cafés, and more.
Other Oita Attractions
Harajiri no Taki
This is said to be one of Japan’s most beautiful waterfalls. Honestly, we didn’t think so. But…. to each their own. It’s beautiful, and huge, but far from being so pretty. It may be because we visited it right after a heavy rain and the water was brownish. It may have been the grey weather.
Usuki and Ueno Motomachi
Various religious symbols carved on rocks, like Buddhas carved on cliffs and rock walls, and things. In Usuki, there’s also a miso shop selling miso ice cream.
Yufuin to Beppu
The road from Beppu to Yufuin is a good one, though a mountain and so many beautiful sceneries. It takes around 30 minutes by car, and it’s super easy on the eyes and on the soul.
To finish: Things to do in Oita, Japan
There are many things to do in Oita, but Beppu and Yufuin are very, very touristic cities and you may want to avoid if you don’t like crowds of tourists. I do recommend a visit, though, because Beppu and Yufuin onsen ryokan are just some of the best in the country, and consequently, in the world.
Even if you’re just going to be stuck inside your private onsen, watching the clouds go by, I really think it’s worth it!
- City / Country
- Minimun Stay
- $ ~ $$$
- Best local transport option
- Do we recommend it?
- Oita / Japan
- 2 days
- Child friendly enough
- Super safe