Throwback Thursday: Illuminations in “Hell”

In Japan, there are a lot of places that do illuminations and light displays, they’re very popular as ways to enjoy and enhance an already picturesque place in a modern and enchanting way. I’ve been to two such illuminations during my time here so far, but today I’m going to write about the first one I went to – at Umi Jigoku, a popular sightseeing spot in Beppu.

On the same evening, a group of about 8-10 local JETs, including myself, went to an onsen (hot spring bathing area), some of us (also including myself) for the first time. But to avoid making this post too long, I’ll write about that experience, along with some onsen tips, next week~

So, firstly, what’s Umi Jigoku?

Umi Jigoku is one of 7 “jigoku” (“hells”) in Beppu. They’re called “hells” because they’re formed from hot springs, through volcanic activity, but they’re super hot, too hot to bathe in. Umi Jigoku’s water is about 90 degrees Celsius! They are all nationally designated as “Places of Scenic Beauty”, and each Jigoku has its own special features to it :

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Umi Jigoku (sea hell)  – beautiful turquoise-blue water (and a small shrine and koi pond nearby)
Oniishibouzu Jigoku (demon stone monk hell) – steaming, bubbling grey mud that forms the round shape of a monk’s head
Chinoike Jigoku (blood pond hell) – mysteriously orangey-red water
Shiraike Jigoku (white pond hell) – tranquil-looking white or jade-green water, and exhibits featuring barracudas and piranhas)
Kamado Jigoku (cooking pot hell) – you can try  food cooked in the steam of the hell here, and taste hot spring water!
Oniyama Jigoku (monster mountain hell) – large alligators that have been bred in the hot onsen atmosphere
Tatsumaki Jigoku (spout hell) – a geyser which spouts boiling hot water every 30-40 minutes, as well as some tropical looking plants nearby

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So Umi Jigoku normally looks like this. As well as Umi Jigoku itself, there are also water lily ponds here, which in around August, have water lilies big enough for small children to stand on! There’s also a greenhouse with more waterlilies and tropical plants, and some small clay ponds (like mini versions of the Chinoike Jigoku) as well as a large gift shop. For the illuminations though, of course, it was at night, and there were coloured lights everywhere, even in the greenhouse (which had really beautiful dappled white lights) so it looked really magical.

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Last year’s took place from 15th – 24th September, so unfortunately there’s not a very large window of opportunity to see it, but if you do happen to be in Beppu around that time of year, I’d definitely recommend it!

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