Translated by Hilary Keyes
The Unique Appeal of Taketa, Oita's Famous Mineral Spring Town
Written by MATCHA-PR
Taketa, a town in Oita prefecture, is where you will find Nagayu Onsen, home of Japan's best carbonated water springs. This article introduces seven attractions of Taketa: its abundant waters, traditional sweets, tea culture, unique restaurants and more!
Culture Born from Pure Waters
With places like Yufuin, Beppu and others, is it any wonder that the hot spring prefecture, Oita is popular with visitors from around the world? Of the many towns that make up this prefecture though, Taketa has its own charms that other places cannot match, such as Nagayu Onsen and long established cultures born out of their abundantly flowing waters.
Today we would like to introduce some of the standard places and unique restaurants that make up the charming town of Taketa.
1. Bathe in the Bubbly Waters of Japan's Best Carbonated Spring: Nagayu Onsen
Nagayu Onsen in Taketa is said to be the best place for carbonated springs in Japan as here you will find the greatest concentration of highly carbonated springs with the highest overall output in the entire country. If you would like to try a slightly different sort of hot spring when visiting Oita prefecture, then by all means make your way to Taketa.
Ramune Onsen Inn
And when you are looking to try a carbonated spring for yourself, heading to Ramune Onsen Inn is ideal. The cute sign out front and unique black and white pattern of the building is their trademark.
Just as its name indicates, once you immerse yourself in the carbonated springs of Ramune Onsen, you will soon find yourself covered from head to toe in fizzy bubbles, as though you were soaking in soda. Although a bit tickly at first, you will soon get used to the sensation of being surrounded by bubbles. The lower temperature of the water makes it possible for you to stay in it longer; you may find yourself wanting to go back and experience this spring over and over again.
If you would like to take your time and thoroughly enjoy the sensations of a carbonated spring, then we recommend staying at Daimaru Ryokan, with its open-air baths, large separate facilities for men and women, and family baths. Guests of this inn may use their annex, Ramune Onsen, and its facilities for free.
2. The Beautiful Water Curtain: Hakusui Dam
Continuing on, we would now like to introduce a feast for the eyes: Hakusui Dam. Built against a stone wall, the water that runs off from this dam looks like a lace curtain as it cascades downwards. Both sides of the dam are different, giving it a left-right asymmetry that creates a truly unique visual experience.
Photo courtesy of: Taketa Sightseeing Tourism Association
Although it is certainly refreshing to look at these cool waters during the summer, we have to say that the best time to visit this dam is the autumn. The curtain of water against a background of red leaves is so striking you would swear that you were looking at a painting. Hakusui Dam can be viewed from both sides of the river, so why not take a walk about in this area and find the perfect vantage point for you?
3. Meisui no Sato and its Clear Streams
Selected as part of the one hundred exquisite waters of Japan, Taketa's spring, Meisui no Sato, is exceptionally famous. Throughout the year the temperature of the water stays fairly steady at 16 degrees Celsius, making it a miraculous spring that feels cool and refreshing in the summer and gently warm in the winter.
Kauda spring, a particularly abundant spring in the area, brings people from all across Kyushu, seeking to draw spring water to drink and cook with. During your stay you should stop by this spring to have a taste of this delicious natural water.
In the summer months this spring becomes incredibly popular as free swimming pools for children are established and people seeking an escape from the heat come here to enjoy its abundantly flowing waters.
4. Taketa's Traditional Sweets: Making Wagashi at Mikasano
The water of this spring has had a deep impact on the traditional culture of Taketa, more specifically, their tea and wagashi (Japanese traditional sweets) culture. The oldest wagashi shop in Oita prefecture is unanimously agreed to be Tajimaya Roma, established in 1804.
At Tajimay Roma, you can take part in a class where you will learn how to prepare their most famous confectionery, the Mikasano, from their expert craftsmen. The taste and texture of these freshly made sweets is exceptional.
Mikasano are crescent shaped crepe-like sweets filled with koshian (smooth red bean paste); the light texture and slight crunch of the wrapping and the subtle sweetness of the koshian make for an incredible taste experience. We were surprised to learn that this flavor and the ingredients have not changed in the years since the shop was first opened.
The perfect match to green tea, we highly recommend taking your time and enjoying this freshly made sweets at Tajima Roma after your lesson. In order to take part in this course, you will need to make a reservation in advance, by contacting the Taketa Sightseeing Tourism Association.
5. Appreciate the Four Seasons: Kuju Flower Park
For those wanting to leisurely enjoy the bounty of nature in this area, a trip to Kuju Plateau and its Kuju Flower Park is in order.
Designed with the concept of being a flower village in mind, this park will unfold before your eyes; from spring to fall, 5 million flowers in 500 different varieties erupt into bloom at Kuju Flower Park.
Open from March to November, these entirely hand-raised and cared for flowers offer up their gentle fragrances to those who come to view them. And, with shops inside the park selling local specialties and restaurants offering delicious dishes of their own, this is an excellent place to spend the day. If you take a look at their official website, you can learn which flowers will be in bloom when, making it easy to plan a trip to the park in time to see your favorites at their best.
6. The Summer Soft Serve Stamp Rally
Every summer (from July to September), Taketa holds its Soft Cream Stamp Rally. Every shop, from soy sauce vendors to sake shops, take part in this event and offer soft serve ice creams that cannot be enjoyed anywhere else. In 2016 alone there were 18 different flavors to try.
This time, we tried the 2015 Soft Cream Queen ice cream Tomoshu, which is made with brown rice. The peculiar stickiness of this ice cream and the slight sweetness of the brown rice made for an overall exquisite experience!
7. Food in the Bath? Cafe in a Former Bathhouse: Okura Shimizuyu
The last place we would like introduce today appears to be a warehouse from the outside, but when you walk inside, it seems to be a public bath house - in other words, the very unique restaurant Art Space and Cafe Okura Shimizuya.
Everywhere you look in the interior you will see traces of the former bath house; many of the tables are built right over the original bathtubs, meaning that your feet rest where there was once water as you enjoy your meal. What a kooky place!
Other than the uniqueness of the shop itself, the delicious menu is what makes this place so popular. The first time you visit, we highly recommend trying their Kisetsu Kobocha Set, a meal set featuring seasonal ingredients all produced in Taketa and fresh homemade noodles. All made using the amazing pure waters of Taketa, you are sure to enjoy the delicious freshness of all their dishes!
Taketa, a city surrounded by Mt. Aso and the Kuju mountain range, is blessed with pure waters that have helped to create an entirely unique culture of their own. Traveling by rental car will make it all the more simple to enjoy each and every one of the charms of this town freely.
When you are planning a trip to this region, by all means please contact the Taketa Sightseeing Tourism Association who will be more than happy to provide you with the latest news and information available about this amazing town.