Hita Onsen: Onsen in the “Town of Water” Famous for U-kai
Located roughly in the center of northern Kyushu, Hita City is in Oita Prefecture, which ranks top in both the number of onsen sources and the yield of hot spring water in Japan. Prospering as tenryo, one of the areas under direct control of the Tokugawa Shogunate, since the early 17th century, Hita is an onsen area and one where you can still see many traces of its brilliant Edo era culture in its streetscapes.
Hita Onsen is a simple hot spring that is said to be effective for relieving various symptoms, including those of rheumatism, nerve pain, and fatigue. It has also been visited by people who want to have a healthy baby as well as those seeking beautiful skin.
Along the Mikuma-gawa River, upstream of the Chikugo-gawa River, the biggest river in Kyushu, there are many Japanese-style hotels. In summer, the lights of the leisure boats are turned on at sunset.
On a leisure boat, you can enjoy savoring one of the local specialties, ayu sweetfish dishes, as well as watching “u-kai,” traditional cormorant fishing with about 400 years of history. With a bonfire making a cracking noise at the bow of the boat, reflecting on the dark water surface, the masterly handling of the rope by the cormorant fisherman is extremely skillful, making the boat passengers “ohh and ahh” involuntarily.
For a great view of the Mikuma-gawa River, you can go to Kizan Park right in front of the onsen district. It is busy in spring, offering a great place to see cherry blossoms. You can enjoy walking along the water in a relaxing atmosphere.
Mameda Town in the northern part of the city is the most prosperous tourist spot in Hita City. With a unique streetscape, where many remnants of the days when the area was under direct control by the Tokugawa Shogunate are still very evident, the area is bustling with museums, sake breweries, souvenir shops, and cafes. After relaxing in onsen, you can enjoy strolling around the town as well.
The view of the Mikuma-gawa River with a broad width and abundant water is one reason why Hita is called the “Town of Water.” At the river-opening festival held in May to celebrate the start of ayu (sweetfish) fishing for the year, about 10,000 fireworks are launched into the sky above the Mikuma-gawa River.
“Hita Gion Festival” is a traditional summer event of Hita, with about 350 years of history. The “Shudan Kaomise” event with all nine decorated floats getting together in front of Hita Station is gorgeous and overwhelming to see.
Hita is also known as a timber industry town. Hita Geta wooden sandals, made with cedar produced in the Hita Basin, are light and comfortable, making a perfect souvenir.
From the editor:
As Hita is in a basin surrounded by mountains, a phenomenon called “sokogiri,” shallow ground fog, sometimes occurs on winter mornings. When it happens, the whole town including the Mikuma-gawa River is covered in thick fog, creating a mesmerizing scene.
Haneda Airport -> 110 min by air -> Fukuoka Airport -> 90 min by expressway bus -> Hita Bus Terminal -> 10 min on foot -> Hita Onsen
Hita City Tourism Association
Hita City Tourism Division: Instagram (@hita_tourism)
*The information herein is as of December 2021.