What do Japanese artsists, demon possesions and korean princesses have in common? Oita prefecture!
Situated in Japan’s Kyūshū island, Oita prefecture is famous for its hot springs (onsen) , but there is so much more than meets the eye in this often overlooked area.
I recently had the opportunity to enjoy the wonders of Oita thanks to Tourism Oita. For three days and two nights, I could catch a glimpse of what this misterious Kyūshū area has in store.
Kunisaki Peninsula in Oita is the place where Buddhism and Shintoism started to merge.
From the very roots of Japanese spirituality and religion (Kunisaki Peninsula in Oita is the place where Buddhism and Shintoism started to merge), to an ancient fire and demon matsuri and amazing seafood, my visit to Oita was intense and incredible, and I’m so happy to share it with you!
Unleash your creativity in KUNIMI TOWN
Kunimi is a charming countryside town filled with art! It seems that almost everyone in the tight-knit community is an artist or crafstman -or related to one. Take for example the Kunimi Art Gallery area. La Paloma is a family run atelier of ceramics and glass in which the whole family creates decorative items by hand.
Also Chikuho Bamboo ART Lab, where Chikuho Mimura-san makes his three-dimensional creations out of bamboo. His creations include sculptures, lamps and even handbags. But it doesn’t end here: Chikuho’s mom repurposes kimono cloths and transforms them into new garments. I told you Kunimi’s people are talented!
My personal recommendations:
- Explore the local museum-store-restaurant Touinryou. The old wooden house has been restored and you can enjoy the Japanese architecture while discovering their current collections.
- Have a hearty lunch (vegetarian options available!) at Nepali Vansa.
- Buy your one of a kind omiyage (souvenir) from La Paloma. I got a maneki-usagi for The Husbun!
Go for a retro stroll in SHOWANOMACHI
If you’re a fan of the Showa era or just like retro aesthetics, you will love Showanomachi: the shopping district of Bungotakada.
Flawlessly keeping that old school flair, Showanomachi respresents the peaceful, radiant Japan on the last two decades of the Showa era (until 1989). It was a time of peace, reconstruction, change and economical improvement. In general, happier days than the decades before!
A stroll around the nostalgia-filled streets will bring you back to simpler times, when Japanese children used to spend their assignment money on dagashi (traditional sweets and snacks) and admire Astroboy gadgets and toys.
Don’t forget to visit the Dagashiya no yume (Dreams of candy) museum, that houses an impressive collection of toys and memorabilia of those sweet years. You can catch a glimpse of what a Japanese living room used to look like, telephones with cords (There was one of those at my family home back in the day though, I feel old) and Godzilla, Godzilla everywhere. I was a happy camper, I do like retro-looking Goji a lot.
- Have a delicious lunch at THE soba restaurant: Soba-Dokoro Hibiki.
Experience the (at least) seven wonders of HIMESHIMA
HimeShima (Literally: Princes Island) is a small island of roughly 7 km². According to Nihonshoki, it takes its name from a Korean princess that took refuge here escaping from an arranged marriage. It’s a peaceful, quiet place that looks unassuming but in reality, hides seven wonders awaiting be discovered.
Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to check the 7 wonders but we did visit a couple, like Hyoshimizu Onsen, a medicinal, 1300 year old hot spring with drinkable water!
And probably the most popular wonder: Sennin-Do. This small construction has a big reputation: Legend claims that 1000 people once hid inside it to avoid paying taxes to the -unfair- local lord. That’s why its name means literally “1000 People Hall”! It overlooks Kannonzaki, a volcanic crate made of Himeshima’s renowned stone, the grey obsidian. It’s one of the most beautiful views I’ve enjoyed in Japan so far. Incredible.
Himeshima is taking a step forward with eco-friendly tourism. You can see their interest in sustainability just taking a look at their pristine beach! There are also electric vans and cars to rent for a steal, so you can explore Princess Island without hurting Mother Earth. Bravo, Himeshima!
- Stay the night in a traditional Ryokan: Yachiyo-Kan is conveniently situated and it’s so pretty and Ghibli-like!! I loved it.
- Enjoy the local delicacy: Kuruma Ebi. These prawns are served in many ways, all delicious.
Get in touch with your inner samurai in HIJI-MACHI
Hiji-machi is a tranquil seaside town with lots of history and amazing looks. Personally, it was probably one of the highlights of the trip: I ended up enamored with the architecture, views and locals of Hiji-Machi!
There’s probably no better background for kimono pictures than the picturesque fortress-town of Hiji. Fortunately, the ladies at Ninomaru-Kan Kimono Salon can help you rent and wear this quintessential Japanese garment. I had the pleasure of wearing a luxurious furisode and attending a tea ceremony with our wonderful hostesses. Then, we went out exploring the town and soaking all the history it contains.
Hiji-Machi sits around Hiji Castle’s ruins. While walking around the peaceful streets (saying hi to the friendly locals), you will see some of the castle’s turrets and walls still holding up! In fact, the town’s middle school is built inside what would be the castle. How cool is that?!
It’s such a beautiful, charming town, I didn’t want to leave! The combination of history and nature is perfect, and also the top quality seafood is so delicious. It doesn’t get much more fresh than this!
There you have it! These are the unique experiences I had in Oita, all special and beautiful in their own way. I can’t wait to go back to Kunisaki Peninsula and keep discovering the incredible places I know there are!! I can’t thank Turism Oita enough for having invited me to share all this traditional Japan goodness with you. Please check out my VLOG and don’t forget to read everything about Shujo-Onie, the demon matsuri of Oita, right here (link).
Need help planning your trip to Oita? Tourism Oita is here to help!
PS. Hope you liked this post! If you enjoy my content please consider liking/following my Facebook page, subscribing to my Youtube Channel and following me on Twitter and Instagram. Your support makes me able to get more opportunities of sharing Japan with you
From the bottom of my bunny heart, thank you.💜