Wonderful World – Nine Hells of Beppu

There are some truly weird, amazing and wonderful places in this world and the Nine Hells of Beppu, on the island of Kyushu in Japan is one that is worth visiting.

The countryside around Beppu is a very active geothermal area which has about 2,800 gushing springs which spew out amazing quantities of boiling water. It is the second largest producer of geothermal water in the world, and some of the ponds and waterfalls are spectacular indeed.

The water is far too hot in which to swim, however, in medieval times in Japan the thermal ponds were used for an extremely unpleasant form of torture.

The nine “hells” are so called because they each have different qualities, so are unique in their own way. The town of Beppu itself, has many natural steam fissures which rise through the ground so that virtually everywhere you go you see constant reminders of the area’s special significance. The town is popular with tourists, particularly Japanese, and about 12 million of them flock to the town each year.

The nine hells have been named after the Buddhist vision of hell, some of which do adequately describe their individual qualities.

Umi Jigoku, which means Sea Hell (jigoku is the Japanese word for Hell) features a pool of turquoise water that resembles the sea. Its waters are 120 meters deep and 90 degrees Celsius hot, and it was formed about 1300 years ago. The waters are hot enough to cook eggs in, and some people try out the foot bath.

Oniishibozu Jigoku (Shaven Head Hell) is comprised of a boiling mud pool, which is smooth and shiny, much like a Buddhist Monk’s shaven head. Shiraike Jigoku (White Pond Hell) is so called because of the water which spurts out of the ground and turns a creamy white colour. The surroundings have been planted with attractive gardens which make it a pleasant place to visit.

Yama Jigoku (Mountain Hell) features plumes of steam which eject from a mountain of mud that has been formed over a very long time. The mud mountain itself is surrounded by small ponds. Kamado Jigoku (Cooking Pot Hell) is overlooked by the garish statue of the devil who sits on a giant cooking pot. The pond possibly got its name because it is one place where people were tortured and killed by being thrown into the bubbling stream.

Oniyama Jigoku (Monster Mountain Hell) – although these are very hot thermal waters, a number of crocodiles are able to live in the waters of this pond, hence its reference to monsters. Kinryu Jigoku (Golden Dragon Hell), someone was brave enough to build a statue of a dragon here, and ferry the steam up to its mouth where it escapes, giving the impression that it is a fire breathing dragon.

Tatsumaki Jigoku (Spout Hell) in which super-heated water that reaches a temperature 105 degrees centigrade spurts out to a height of 20 metres every 45 minutes. Chinoike Jigoku (Blood Pond Hell) so named because it is bright red in colour due to the amount of ferrous minerals in the water. Even the steam is red, giving it a most spectacular look.

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