Friday, November 4, 2016

Oita Prefecture Onsen-meisters' Association

What is “Onsen-meister”? Oita Prefecture Onsen-meister is a title given to those who pass the onsen-meister licensing exam. “Onsen” means hot springs. This exam is held by Beppu Onsen Geo-Museum twice a year, in February and in March, as part of the museum’s educating programs. This licensing program aims at spreading knowledge about onsen, and thus people in Oita Prefecture, Japan’s largest hot spring concentration, will be more informed about hot springs so that they can share merits of this rich natural resources in the prefecture with visitors. The exam covers a rather wide-ranging knowledge about hot springs including hot spring science, effects of hot springs, hot spring-related culture, and so on.


On August 7th, 2015, Oita Prefecture Onsen-meisters’ Association was formed to help onsen-meister licensees to encourage each other to acquire more information about onsen and to promote utilization of hot springs.


On the first anniversary of this association, on August 5th, 2016, a talk show was held. The participants were Professor Masaki Saito, Tokai University, Yuichi Tsuchiya, Director of NPO Yupia, and Kyoto Kitaide, a hot spring analyst and the author of an onsen book called “Doko-iko, Kyushu’s best hot spring baths”(in Japanese).


Besides their private onsen experiences, such as how they “fell in love” with onsen and how often they take onsen baths, they gave information about how to tell the differences between good hot spring baths and not so good ones, what are major differences of Beppu people’s bathing manners from those in other parts of Japan, and more.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Beppu Geo-hike held on June 11, 2016

In Beppu, there is a virtual museum called Beppu Onsen Geo-Museum. This museum is run by a non-profit organization of the same name, and its members are hot spring experts including professors at Kyoto University’s Institute for Geothermal Sciences. The museum has three pillars: the museum on the internet, field activities, and giving lectures on Beppu hot springs. 1) The internet museum provides information about Beppu hot springs which have been gained through wide-ranging researches in natural, medical, social, and cultural sciences. Click here to visit their site (in Japanese). Click here to visit their English page.  2) As field activities, they offer 15 hiking courses, or “geo-hikes”, visiting Beppu’s different hot spring areas. Several times a year, Kyoto University’s professor of geology, Prof. Keiji Takemura, gives guided tours of some of the courses. Click here to see the courses and to download the course maps (only in Japanese). 3) They offer a lecture on hot spring related topics at Beppu City Public Hall every month. The topics include hot spring science, hot springs and health, Beppu’s geographical and geological features, and attractive features of Beppu hot springs.

On June 11, 2016, this year’s third guided geo-hike was held. The course was “Kankaiji No.2 course.” Kankaiji is one of the eight hot spring areas in Beppu, which is located in the south-western part of the city. Here are some photos from this hike course.

Part of the geo-thermal power plant (left) and water cooling towers (left below). This power plant belongs to a hotel located in the Kankaiji hot spring area, Suginoi Hotel, and supplies about half of the electricity that the hotel uses.

We saw a few hot spring sources along the way. This source has water pipes, but not a steam separator, so steam goes out directly from the source.

View of the city. The brown building on the below left corner is Kyoto University's Institute for Geothermal Sciences. The tall structure is calle Global Tower and it has an observation deck.

The professor showed us a cinnabar which was found along this hike course.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Hot spring water distributed to private houses in Beppu

In Beppu, besides many public hot spring bathing facilities, there are private hot spring baths. Some have their own hot spring wells in their estates, and others have hot spring water conducted by companies that have hot spring wells. A company called Nihon Chinetsu Kogyo (Japan Geothermal Industries), the largest hot spring water distribution company in Beppu, has 18 wells and has hot spring water pipes laid over many areas in this city.

                                      The above is a photo of one of their wells.

On the road under which such pipes are laid, there are red lids like the one on the photo (right). They are hot spring water pipe bulb lids.

If you buy hot spring water from this company, which is 9,000 yen per month, you just have to open a tap, just like city water, to have a hot spring bath at home.