Visions of Hell: Part I

Located in Beppu, Japan is a popular area and well-known tourist attraction called “Jigoku Meguri.” The word “jigoku” takes its meaning, “burning hell,” from the ancient Buddhist sutras of the East. It is said that a visit to the eight phenomenal, natural hot spring sites will also conjure up images of the hellish depths of the “Inferno” as portrayed in the great medieval poem by Dante. In an atmosphere charged with magnificence, awe, and a hint of terror, one can marvel at and appreciate the power and beauty of nature. These hells are multicolored volcanic pits of boiling water and mud, and one geyser. The hells are too hot to be diluted into an onsen, as the temps range from 50 to 99.5 °C (122 to 210 °F)!! Some of the hells also have a natural smell of sulfur.

Jigoku Meguri tour and walk starts here.
Jigoku Meguri tour and walk begins here.
Steam from the hot springs as you reach Jigoku Meguri.
Steam rising from smaller hot springs as you reach Jigoku Meguri.

These hells are administered by The Beppu Jigoku Association and cost 2,000 yen/adult to view all eight hells, or 400 yen/adult for each individual hell. The “Jigoku Meguri” are open every day from 8am-5pm and take about two and a half hours at a leisurely pace to visit them all.

Our first visit to hell: Yama-Jigoku (Mountain Hell). A gust of steam clears to reveal prancing lions, bathing hippos, and curious chimpanzees. Taking its name from the mountain of mud formed over the years, this “jigoku” is also a mini zoo that everyone can enjoy. First, you must walk through the mini zoo in order to reach the first hell.

It's difficult to see, but there is an African elephant in the far back left (dark spot).
It’s difficult to see, but there is an African elephant in the far back left (dark spot).

IMG_4567 IMG_4569

Monkeys.
Monkeys.
Hippo.
Hippo.
For 100 yen, you can feed the hippo carrots!
For 100 yen ($1 US), you can feed the hippo carrots!
Miniature horses!
Miniature horses!
Yama Jigoku
Yama Jigoku
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Yama Jigoku.
Yama Jigoku.
Yama Jigoku.
Yama Jigoku.
Us at Yama Jigoku.
Us at Yama Jigoku.

Our second visit to hell: Umi-Jigoku (Sea Hell). So called because it resembles the sea. This 200 meter deep, cobalt-blue pond of boiling water emerged 1,200 years ago after a volcanic eruption. The manicured gardens are simply magnificent. And from May to November you can marvel at the gigantic “Victoria Amazonica” lotus flowers grown in hot springs!

Entrance to manicured gardens.
Entrance to manicured gardens.
The Victoria Amazonica lotus flowers that grow in hot spring waters.
The Victoria Amazonica lotus flowers that grow in hot spring waters.
Umi-Jigoku.
Umi-Jigoku.
Umi Jigoku.
Umi Jigoku.
Side view of Umi Jigoku.
Side view of Umi Jigoku.
Shrine in the gardens at Umi Jigoku.
Shrine in the gardens at Umi Jigoku.
Umi-Jigoku.
Umi-Jigoku.

A smaller colored hot spring located at this site.

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While experiencing Umi-Jigoku, we came across our first foot spa!

Foot spa under a pavillion.
Foot spa under a pavillion.
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The hot spring water pours into the spa from here.
The hot spring water pours into the spa from here.
Soaking our feet. (This water was unbelievably HOT!). But it felt good afterwards.
Soaking our feet. (This water was unbelievably HOT!). But it felt good afterwards.
Towel dispensers to wipe off your feet after finishing with the spa! (200 yen)
Dispensers for towels to wipe off your feet after finishing with the spa! (200 yen)

Onward to our third visit to hell: Oniishibozu-Jigoku (Shaven Monk’s Head Hell). This place is called Oniishi Bozu Jigoku (Oniishi Shaven Head Hell) after the name of the area, which is Oniishi, and because the large and small bubbles of hot grey mud that boil up here look like the shaven heads (bozu atama) of monks.

Oniishibozu-Jigoku.
Oniishibozu-Jigoku.
A smaller mud hot spring.
A smaller mud hot spring.
Up close of mud bubbles.
Close up of mud bubbles.
Us at Oniishibozu-Jigoku.
Us at Oniishibozu-Jigoku.
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Another smaller grey-milky mud spring.

Reaching our fourth visit to hell: Kamado-Jigoku (Boiling/Oven Hell). A bright red demon stands on an enormous cooking pot as the mascot of this hot spring site, which is temptingly divided into six unique pots of murky, budding, “thumping” boiling waters.

Entrance to Kamado-Jingoku.
Entrance to Kamado-Jingoku.
One of a few hot springs at this site, in the entrance. This spring is 90 degrees celsius!
One of a few hot springs at this site, in the entrance. This spring is 90 degrees celsius!
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The demon.
The demon.
Another small hot spring.
Another small hot spring.
Close up- beautiful blue!!
Close up- beautiful blue!!
A small mud spring.
A small mud spring- 80 degrees celsius.
The biggest hot spring at Kamado-Jingoku.
The biggest hot spring at Kamado-Jingoku.
Thermometer for the spring.
Thermometer for the large spring.
White subtance found in hot springs... see below...
White subtance found in hot springs… see below…
Explanation for the white matter.
Explanation for the white matter.

You can find hot spring boiled eggs- specialties of each jigoku- at all of the hells. Here we stopped to try some!

One of the many places selling hot spring boiled eggs.
One of the many places selling hot spring boiled eggs.
Cute little table directions on how to eat an onsen egg.
Cute little table directions on how to eat an onsen egg, providing all of the tools and sauces/toppings.

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How they give the eggs to you.
How they give the eggs to you, with a side of salt.
The you peel and eat, yum!
Then you peel and eat, yum!

We also tried our second, and less scorching hot foot spa right next to the egg stand.

Foot spa. The grey-blue water was warm/hot, the bright blue water section was extremely hot!
Foot spa. The grey-blue water was warm/hot with sand, and the bright blue water section was extremely hot with no sand!
Steve enjoying the foot spa.
Steve enjoying the foot spa.
A short explanation we found about the different types of foot spas and their benefits. Pretty neat.
A short explanation we found about the different types of foot spas and their benefits. Pretty neat.

After some hot spring snacks and foot bathing, we set off for our fifth visit to hell: Oniyama-Jigoku (Demon Mountain Hell). The force of the steam produced at this spring can pull one and a half train cars. This “hellish” site is the happy home of a variety of crocodiles and alligators who slither down into the warm breeding waters.

A demon sitting at the entrance to Oniyama Jigoku.
A demon sitting at the entrance to Oniyama Jigoku.
Oniyama-Jigoku
Oniyama-Jigoku
Rapidly boiling waters.
Rapidly boiling waters of Oniyama-Jigoku.
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Oniyama-Jigoku
Home of the crocodiles and alligators.
Home of the crocodiles and alligators.

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And our final and last trip to hell for the day, #6: Shiraike-Jigoku (White Pond Hell). The White Pond Hell is called so because the colorless water that naturally spouts from the ground mysteriously turns creamy white. The serene atmosphere of the traditional Japanese garden is very soothing and tranquil.

Part of Japanese feel as you enter the site.
Part of the calm Japanese feel as you enter the site.
Beautiful side shot of the hell and its peacefulness.
Beautiful side shot of the hell and the Japanese landscape.
Shiraike-Jigoku.
Shiraike-Jigoku.
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Shiraike-Jigoku
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Shiraike-Jigoku

**On our trip to the hells, we spent so much time observing the hot springs and enjoying the shops, foot spas, and food, that we ran out of time to see the last two hells. Visions of Hell: part II will be posted when we have the chance to return to these boiling pits of hell and share our experience!**

TO BE CONTINUED….

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Lindsay View All →

Our roots will forever be from here, America, born and raised. Yet, life requires us to move more frequently than we care to count. Whether living stateside or abroad, you can always find us traveling somewhere. We scout out places that you only think you can dream of one day seeing and we seek out those that aren’t found in guidebooks. We then bring them to life here in our travel memos, so hopefully, one day you too can visit them or at least be able to live vicariously through us. This blog isn’t just about crossing off places from a bucket list. It’s about absorbing and learning how other cultures grow and fit into the same world that we do. Life is short and the world is big. Enjoy and get out there!

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