All Seasons

The Best 15 Things to Do in Oita: from Festivals to Onsen Hopping

Anton

Writer

Oita Prefecture is an excellent destination to avoid the beaten tracks when you travel to Japan. Even if you are an experienced traveler, Oita is a perfect place where you can see rural Japan with its unforgettable charm and hospitality. If you are wondering what can you do in Oita, this article will be helpful and suggest you most popular festivals in the prefecture along with some hidden gems that you shouldn’t miss when you are there. Everybody will be able to find a suitable activity in the ‘land of onsens.’

Contents

About Oita Prefecture

10 Best Festivals in Oita

Other Things to Do in Oita Prefecture

Onsen Hopping

Have a National Treasure Sites Tour

Try Local Specialties

Stay Green or Blue

Bring a Part of Oita With You

Closing Remarks

About Oita Prefecture

Oita Prefecture is in the northeastern part of Kyushu island. It boasts breathtaking natural landscapes and famous for its hot springs not only in Japan but worldwide as well. The density of onsen spots in Oita is higher than anywhere in Japan. Moreover, the annual yield of hot spring water is also on the top. Many tourists come to experience these famous onsens with mud, sand, steam, mineral water and other unique mixes. The best districts for hot springs hopping are situated on a volcanic belt and include five regions: Beppu, Yufu, Taketa, Kokonoe, and Hita.

This prefecture’s economy is based on agriculture and fishery. Oita is the largest producer of bamboo, kabosu limes, and dry shiitake mushrooms in Japan. People of the perfecter speak their dialect, which, however, doesn’t cause any problems, and quite similar to the traditional Japanese language.

Agency of Cultural Affairs of Japan designated over 140 cultural assets in Oita four of which are national treasures. At the same time, there are over 700 cultural properties, landmarks, and traditions designated by the prefecture. Festivals with its traditional dances, music, and history are also one of the significant cultural assets of Oita Prefecture.

Best Festivals of Oita

Festivals are an essential part of Japanese culture and one of the events you will never forget. Oita Prefecture boasts numerous traditional festivals and also modern matsuri. Let’s take a look at some of the most exciting ones!

Hina Matsuri

You can attend Hina Matsuri (Doll Festival) at Hita city to experience a beautiful Japanese tradition by watching these elegant and precious Hina dolls. It is an old Japanese ritual to display these dolls to the public wishing the girls in the family a healthy growth and a happy future. This ritual originated in the Edo Period, and only wealthy families could afford these beautiful dolls.

People in Hita city started presenting their dolls to the public about 30 years ago in the hope of attracting more tourists and prosperity to the town. You can enjoy watching these dolls in various locations in the city and even can experience a blue-eyed dolls parade which is very exciting because these dolls are rare in Japan after the Pacific war. So, the best way to enjoy this event is to rent a kimono and walk around the city appreciating the beauty of Hina dolls. Besides, you can also experience the crafting process during Hina Matsuri.

Details and Access

This festival lasts quite long. Usually, from the middle of March until the end of February every year, so you have enough time to visit Hita city and enjoy the festival. You can enjoy the dolls in the central part of the town. The major venues are Tenryo Hita Gallery 200 Yen, Kusano Honke (traditional house) 550 Yen, Hirose Gallery 450 Yen, Tenryo Girl’s Doll Hall 300 Yen, Kuncho Shuzo (Sake brewery) Gallery free, and many more!

For more info on this festival, please check here:

URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/2784/

Hatto Onsen Matsuri

This crazy festival takes place in Beppu city. Beppu is the most famous onsen town in Oita Prefecture. Over 100 hot springs allow guests to use their facilities for free for two days out of 5 days of the festival. Not only you can experience free tours around local hot springs and absorb a lot of useful information about local onsen traditions, but the location allows for hopping from one hot spring to another. Don’t think that you would ever experience so many onsens in such a short period.

You also should not miss the main event od Hatto Onsen Matsuri – The Mikoshi Parade. Beppu Mikoshi is unique indeed. It has a shape of a bathtub and is splashed with water during the festival. Not only the Mikoshi gets wet, but everybody who attends the parade will soak. The locals stand on the street, and they all sprinkle hot spring water with water guns. The hot spring water is just gushing out from underground. It is just like the Songkran festival in Thailand but with hot spring water.

Details and Access

This Festival usually takes place in early April all around Beppu city and lasts for around five days.  However, the main venue is the street in front of Beppu Station and various locations around the city of Beppu.

The first day starts with Mt. Ogi Fire Festival. On the second day, the city offers a one-day onsen tour for visitors. Next two days you can enjoy onsens around the town for free! And on day five you can see Onsen Parade.

For more info on this festival, please check here:

URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/791/

Japan Fairy Tale Festival (Nihon Dowasai)

This beautiful Matsuri happens on the national holiday – Children’s day in spring. Kurushima Takehiko is a famous Japanese fairy tale writer who lived in Kusu city. Locals even call him the Japanese Hans Christian Andersen. Kusu city holds this festival for over 50 years aiming children but in honor of Kurushima Takehiko. The major features of this lovely celebration are delicious festival food, storytelling events, student musical concerts, and gigantic silk koinobori (a Japanese carp streamer). The one on this festival is so big that people can even walk through it. This is a great event to visit with children and spend a lovely holiday together. There is also a sumo wrestling match for kids.

Details and Access

The festival takes place at Forest district of Kusu-machi known as “village of children’s story” on May 4th and 5th every year. There are free shuttle buses from the parking nearby the venue and from JR Bungo-Mori Station. It takes about 10 minutes.

For more info on this festival, please check here:

URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/events/japanese-fairy-tale-festival-trip-back-childhood

Usa Summer Festival

Would you like to see traditional but very energetic festivity? Then Summer Festival in Usa city is the proper choice for you. Locals say that Oita Prefecture is the birthplace of Mikoshi Parades, and the one during Usa Summer Festival is imposing.

Over 250 people take part in the parade and carry the God in Mikoshi from the highest ranking main sanctum to a lower ranking sanctum down the road. On the final day, the procession returns from back to the main sanctuary. This is the largest festival of Usa Jingu Shrine. Long with the Mikoshi parade, you should also try some festival food from the stalls and don’t miss the fireworks display on the final day!

Details and Access

Usa Summer Festival lasts for three days at the end of July annually. The dates may differ a bit depending o the year. Usa Jingu Shrine is only 15 min walk from Usa station on JR Nippou Main Line.

For more info on this festival, please check here:

URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/3780/

Oita City Tanabata Festival

Tanabata or a Star Festival is a nationwide celebration. In Oita city, over 450 thousand people attend this event every year. You are going to enjoy a considerable parade with dashi (festival floats). However, in Oita, the floats are called Funai Pacchin. These are substantial paper lanterns on wheels with the shapes of brave warriors and rising dragons. The second day of the festival will provide you with an opportunity to listen to the energetic drum competition and watch beautiful Chikirin Bayashi dance. And on the last day of this festivity, there is a display of 6000 fireworks. A very exciting event to attend!

Details and Access

Every year at the beginning of August you can enjoy the Tanabata Festival in Oita city for three days. The dates vary, depending on the year. The city and festival venues are lavishly decorated, so it is hard to miss this term. The primary site is Chuo-Dori – the Main street which is only is five minutes on foot from JR Oita Station.

For more info on this festival, please check here:

URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/6275/

Nakatsu Karaage Festival

Who doesn’t like juicy fried chicken? Most of us do. Oita prefecture is famous for its deep fried chicken (Karage) and its variations. It`s not surprising that there is a festival to celebrate the taste of this famous dish. Nakatsu city has taken this delicious creation and turned it into something outstanding! 2 of 3 KFC restaurants closed in Nakatsu as they couldn’t compete with local 56 stores that serve exceptionally tasty karaage.

At this festival in 2011, they even set a World Guinness record for the most substantial serving of fried chicken with 1,076 kg. You can try not only fried chicken during the festival but also products with its flavor (soft cream for example). Various concerts of local stars will support the two days festivity. Deep fried chicken and beer…..

Details and Access

This festival takes place in Sanhoh Aeon Mall in Nakatsu city in the middle of September every year. They often try to include the Sports Day in the festivity. However, the dates vary from year to year. I suggest you to take a car to get there, as there are no big stations around the mall.

For more info on this festival, please check here:

URL (Japanese Only): http://karafes.com/

Shirahigetawara Shrine Doburoku Matsuri

At this festival, you can get acquainted with a rare sake brew – “Doburoku.” Only a few locations in Japan can produce this brew. Doburoku is sake in its earliest stage – its prototype. It resembles Korean makkori somehow. The taste seems a bit sweet because of white malted rice that remains unfiltered. However, the alcoholic content may go up to 20 degrees.

This festival is very old. Sake lovers have been attending it for 1300 years. Probably because you can have as many cups of sake as you wish after you pay respect to the shrine deity it is so popular. However, you must finish everything that’s in your cup. Within two days of this festival, attendants consume about 2000 liters of Doburoku. Besides the sake, you will also enjoy a Mikoshi procession and a beard competition (as in English the name of the shrine sounds like “White Beard Shrine”) where you can participate!

Details and Access

Shirahigetawara Shrine is in Kitsuki city of Oita Prefecture. It is about 25-30 min by car or shuttle bus from JR Kitsuki Station. This fun autumn festival lasts for two days on October 17th and 18th every year on the same dates.

For more info on this festival, please check here:

URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/7209/

Kebesu Matsuri

This fire festival is designated as an immaterial folk cultural asset in Oita Prefecture. Thus, many tourists visit it every year. Generally, Kebesu Festival is a firefight between Kebesu with strange wooden masks and Touba in the white clothes. Touba prevents Kebesu from entering into the fire. However, finally, Kebesu jumps into the fire and furiously spreads the flames around. This festival is unusual indeed, and it makes it a must-see event if you are in Oita in October. Old traditional music supports this energetic and charming fire festivity, so the atmosphere is unforgettable!

Details and Access

Kebesu Matsuri is one of the more popular festivals on the Kunisaki Peninsula! It takes place in Kushiku Shrine (Kunimi, Kunisaki City of Oita Prefecture) on October 14th from 18:30 to 21:00 every year on the same day.

For more info on this festival, please check here:

URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/events/mysterious-kebesu-festival-heal-ills-fire

Sennen Akari (Light of a Thousand Years Festival)

Lantern festivals are charming. And Sennen Akari is one of the most beautiful festivals because locals put over 30000 bamboo lanterns creating beautiful glowing mazes around Kagetsu river. The scenery is breathtaking, and the views are pretty much instagramable. No wonder this matsuri attracts over 60000 people every year. As this festivity started in 2005 as a night event for the Hita Tenryo Festival you can enjoy both events at the same time. Festival food stalls are everywhere around the river, so you won’t stay hungry while wandering around those elegant bamboo lanterns.

Details and Access

The festival takes place at Tsukiguma Park and Mameda District of Hita city in the middle of November on the weekend. The exact dates depend on the year. The location is only about 20 minutes by walk from JR Hita Station, which is approximately 2 hours by train from Oita station.

For more info on this festival, please check here:

URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/2069/

Beppu Christmas Hanabi Fantasia

Beppu Christmas Hanabi Fantasia is a major annual winter celebration in Beppu city. The dominant feature of the event is an outstanding fireworks display. Moreover, you will be touched by the beautiful Christmas songs as local children who sing it prepare it long in advance. Isn’t it nice to feel Christmas by watching the fireworks in the night sky while soaking in the warm waters of some Beppu onsen? The city possesses a magical atmosphere for two days of this beautiful celebration.  If you decided to spend your winter vacation calmly close to nature, Beppu Christmas Fireworks Festival would investino your mood!

Details and Access

The two days festival takes place at Beppu Spa Beach which is almost in the center of the city on 23rd and 24th of December every year. You can easily access the venue in 15 minutes on foot from JR Nippo Main Line’s Beppu Station.

For more info on this festival, please check here:

URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/events/beppu-christmas-hanabi-fantasia-brilliant-fireworks-celebration-oita

Other Things to do in Oita Prefecture

Oita Prefecture will never make you feel bored. There are numerous activities that you can experience in this cozy and remote area.

Onsen Hopping

Without doubts, Oita prefecture is the best for onsen hopping. It is a paradise for those who like to soak in warm natural hot springs. The districts on the volcanic belt can over you unique bathing experience. Not only you can soak in warm mineral water, but also enjoy warm sand wrapping or spend time in the natural tanks with mud. Besides, the chemical composition of water is different in each onsen. Thus it will have different effects on your body. Here is one of the most famous hot springs in Oita:

  • Beppu Kaihin Suna-yu -Beach Sand Bath
  • Beppu Onsen Hoyo Land – Mud Bath
  • Kannawa Steam Bath – Steam Bath in Beppu
  • Takegawara Onsen – one of the oldest onsens in Beppu city and its symbol
  • Kankaiji Onsen – a hot spring in the hill with a beautiful view on Beppu bay
  • Hamawaki Onsen – the oldest onsen in Beppu. It exists since the Edo Period
  • Myoban Onsen – a hot spring famous for its beneficial medical effects
  • Kabeyu Onsen – is a unisex hot tub in a natural cave close to Kokonoe city
  • Lamune Onsenkan – a unique onsen with naturally carbonated and relatively warm water in Taketa city

Moreover, to make your onsen hopping even more enjoyable, you can go on a “Hell Tour.” At Beppu Jigoku Meguri (Hell Tour) you will visit eight hot spring locations in Beppu. At the locations, fumarolic steam and gases explode out of the ground creating an unforgettable scene.

Have a National Treasure Sites Tour

Usa Jingu Shrine

Usa Jingu Shrine was founded almost 1300 years ago. This shrine is the main sanctum of over 40000 other Hachiman shrines around Japan. The main buildings of Usa Jingu Shrine became national treasures. Thus, thousands of people visit Usa city to see the shrine and feel the zen every year.

Usuki Stone Buddhas

These stone sculptures are the first stone buddhas in Japan and in Kyushu which were recognized as a national treasure. The creation period of these fascinating sculptures is between the Heian and Kamakura Periods. This cluster close to Usuki city is one of the most notable in quality, number, and size in Japan. You can see over 60 figures at the site, and 59 of them are National Treasures.

Fuki-Ji Temple

Fuki-Ji Temple is one of three major sanctums of Amida-do in Japan along with Chuson-Ji temple and Byodo-in. Besides, Fuki-Ji is the oldest wooden structure in Kyusyu. The statue of Amitabha in this temple is an Important Cultural Property of Japan. Because Fuki-Ji can boast a fantastic location, at all seasons it looks stunning.

Try Local Specialties

Food in Oita is also exceptional, and your journey will be incomplete if you don’t try local food. Here are the products that represent Oita Prefecture:

Oita Bungo Beef

This high-end beef is a representation item of Oita Prefecture. Bungo beef boasts rich taste, careful marbling, and exceptional softness. If you were looking for an alternative to Kobe beef, this could become a very suitable option.

Karaage

Oita is a birthplace of this simple but such a tasty dish. You can meet chicken Karaage commonly throughout Nakatsu city in many establishments. Japanese also call this city – Karaage mecca. However, the heist density of the restaurants that serve various types of deep fried chicken is in Usa city. If you have a chance, try to taste as many Karaage as possible in different restaurants. The way how the owners prepare it is dramatically different.

Seki Aji and Seki Saba

The most famous seafood delight of Oita is Seki Aji (Jack Mackerel) and Seki Saba (Blue Mackerel). Seki here stands for “barrier” indicating the most narrow part of the Bungo Channel. The fish from its waters becomes very meaty and flavorful. In Japan, it is the top brand for this fish. You should try it raw in a local sushi store. However pickled and processed products are also delicious.

Blowfish Cuisine

Bungo Channel waters are also famous for fugu. It is easy to find restaurants specializing in this fish around the prefecture. I suggest you try almost transparent sashimi and don’t miss a chance to try karaage out of fugu as it is also delicious.

Softshell Turtle Cuisine

Historically turtles were considered to help with fatigue and boost your body with energy. This product is rich in minerals and collagen along with having a unique taste. Oita prefecture is the best place to try the dishes with softshell turtles because of its reasonable prices and variety of serving. The most popular ways to cook it are a hot pot, deep frying, and zosui (a Japanese rice soup).

Stay Green or Blue

Oita Prefecture is a perfect destination to explore rural Japan and for “Green Tourism.” If you would like to experience life on a Japanese farm, Shouen Village of Bungo Takada which is an old farming village is an excellent place for it.

However, if you would like to go for “Blue Tourism” and experience seafood right from the ocean and the ship launching ceremony, Saiki fishing village famous for its crystal blue waters is the proper destination for you.

Oita Prefecture is a paradise for those who like hiking. Its mountains create breathtaking landscapes and perfect for hiking in any season. Here are a few ideas for nature lovers.

  • Kuji is between Kokonoe town and Taketa city. Locals also call it the roof of Kyushu.
  • Tsurumi close to Beppu can boast with its outstanding rhododendron flowers on the top.
  • Yufu River Gorge close to Yufu city is a V-shaped valley stretching for 12 km. Cool and peaceful tranquil paradise to escape from a big city.
  • Lake Kinrin is a mysterious lake close to Yufu city. It has two separate springs at its bottom and creates an unforgettable scenery.

 

Bring a Part of Oita With You

Isn’t it nice to bring back home the memories of your journey? To make those memories even more vivid, it would be an excellent idea to bring something local from Oita Prefecture. Here are some recommendations on souvenirs that people bring from this prefecture.

Oita Bamboo Crafts

40% of all bamboo forests of Japan grow in Kyusyu. Oita Prefecture has 60% of Japan’s madake bamboo groves. Bamboo crafts here originated around 2000 years ago. Thus, the level of skill and artistry of the craftsmen is at the top level. The bamboo crafts of Beppu include numerous items, are very sophisticated and have unique designs. This will become a perfect souvenir that will remind you of Oita.

Seki Aji Fish Sauce

You will like the taste of local mackerel. However, it will be difficult to get it away from Oita Prefecture. To keep the scent, local producers created a fish sauce made of their famous Seki Aji. This is an all-purpose sauce that adds a savory flavor to any of your cooking. Tastes similar to the Thai fish sauce, but gives you a feeling of eating something special from Oita.

Kabosu Limes and Products

These small citrus fruits grow mainly in Oita Prefecture. These are fresh scent limes with a unique mildly acid taste. Fresh limes will be a great addition to fish dishes or salads as a dressing. At the same time, if you would like to preserve the taste of Kabosu limes and bring it back with you, there is a variety of different products including gummies, jams, candies, and dressings.

Kurome Miso Soup

In many souvenir shops or supermarkets in Oita, you will quickly find wafers stuffed with Kurome seaweed. Its particular taste will always remind you of your travels to the prefecture, especially when you pour some hot water on it and make miso soup. Inexpensive and delicious option for any traveler.

Oba Kosho

One of the tastes that usually people associate with Japan is a taste of Shiso or Perilla. In Oita, there is a very popular spice that is made with only perilla leaves, chili, and salt. Oba Kosho is an original spice from Oita with a rich perilla taste that goes well with hot pot, meats, noodles or anything if you like the taste. This is a great souvenir that will add some diversity to your cooking.

Closing Remarks

It is hard to mention every good point of Oita Prefecture. The land has rich nature, extraordinary historical and cultural background, and can offer numerous activities even for a tempted traveler. Oita’s cozy rural towns with its atmosphere will stay with you forever. If you want to experience Japan from another perspective and avoid common routes, this prefecture is the perfect destination. Great festivals, Onsens, and hospitable local people wait for you in Oita Prefecture!

If you would like to connect with local people, the guides from Huber in Oita will help you to sketch you travel plans, will suggest you the best places to visit according to your wishes and will bring you to local festivals! For more information, please click on the banner below.

Have You Been to Chiba Prefecture?

Oita Prefecture is a great place to visit and can boast plenty of tourist attractions. Indeed this area can boast the largest number of hot springs in Japan and provides you with a great opportunity to see real rural lives of Japanese people. However, would you like to visit one of the most international, yet very traditional prefecture in Japan? For this purpose, Chiba Prefecture is the proper choice. Besides, it is very close to Tokyo and you can easily visit it within a day. The following article assembled best festivals and activities to enjoy in Chiba Prefecture, which will make your trip to Japan even more rewarding!

URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/6527/

Would You Like to Know How to Enjoy a Japanese Festival Even More?

A lot of people when they get to a Matsuri for the first time feel a bit lost. They confuse about what is happening around. If you are new to Japanese Festivals or want to know an alternative way of how you can enjoy these events, the following article will provide you with a set of helpful tips on how to choose a proper festival and activities you should try there. Please don`t hesitate to take a look at it!

URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/5363/

Don’t Stay Hungry at the Festival!

Image courtesy of Tomomarusan

For all foodies who enjoy Japanese Festivals would be nice to get acquainted with the rich choice offered by Yatai (Japanese festival food stalls). The food presented during Matsuri is pretty different from the one you get at the restaurants in Japan. Besides, there is a certain charm in grabbing some snack from a food stall and diving back into the festival crowd. I am sure that you will discover something new about Japanese festival food from the following article!

URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/5504/

Anton

I`ve been living in Japan for over 10 years and still fascinated with this unique country. I always discover something new about the land of the rising sun when there is a chance!

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