Translated by Jelena Kitamura
Hita, The City Of Water: A Culture Of Rivers, Hot Springs And Waterfalls
Written by MATCHA-PR
Hita is a city in Oita Prefecture, located in northern Kyushu. Its remarkable water resources are rich enough for Hita to be called "the city of waters". Discover Hita's water culture - from rivers and hot springs to scenic waterfalls.
Hita - The Home of Waters
Picture courtesy of Hita City Tourism Department
The city of Hita in Oita Prefecture lies north of the Aso Kuju mountain range, surrounded by majestic mountains. The rivers that flow through this city are, in fact, formed by many clear-water mountain springs coming together.
The rich water resources available in Hita City gave birth not only to beautiful sights but also to a rich cultural heritage, as well as well as a specific type of cuisine and onsen culture.
This is also the reason why Hita is called Suikyo, or the City of Waters.
The Water Road
There are two rivers flowing through the very heart of Hita City – Mikuma River and Kagetsu River. The two rivers meet in Hita to form Chikugo River, which then flows further on toward the sea.
Ever since the Edo Period, this river flow was used for the transportation of goods, and has been of great significance for the economic prosperity of this area.
Japanese Flavors Born from Hita's Clear Water
In search for clean, tasty mountain water, many renowned food companies in Japan have chosen Hita as their manufacturing base.
Famous good-quality alcoholic beverages are produced with Hita’s water day and night at Sapporo Bear Hita Factory and Iichiko Hita Distillery.
As for the local products, there are plenty of those that use the local water, such as Maruhara’s soy sauce and ramune soft drinks, among others.
Hot Springs and Mesmerizing Water Scenery
When it comes to “water-related culture” in Japan, hot springs are a representative example. Of course, Hita boasts many quality hot springs, with the Amagase Onsen area being especially famous.
In this article, we will introduce some of the places where you can feel the “water culture” of Hita, a city where you can feel the blessings of nature on your own skin.
Mikuma River - Flowing Calmly through the Ages
Picture courtesy of Hita City Tourism Department
Mikuma River, which flows through the city center, is the symbol of Hita, impressing visitors with its beauty.
It is a majestic river, flowing calmy and crystal clear, and is a very important part of the daily lives of the local community.
The sight of yakatabune (roofed sightseeing boats) floating on the Mikuma River revives Edo Period sceneries, when this river was used for transporting goods.
The cedars of Hita are one of the city's distinguished trademarks. Hita's cedars, sought after in whole Japan, used to be distributed to every corner of the country via the Mikuma River by water transportation.
Up until around 50 years ago, the transportation of cedars by water was an everyday sight in this area, but unfortunately, it is not possible to admire it anymore.
However, the sturdy mementoes of that long-lost history are the numerous warehouses found along the Mikuma River. These warehouses were mostly used for storing sawmills, or as a storage rooms for timber.
Steak and Tea Salon Wakura, located on the bank of the Mikuma River, is a forestry warehouse remodeled into a restaurant.
It is a special restaurant which gives you the opportunity to savor delicious teppanyaki and other dishes made with local ingredients, while gazing upon the flow of the Mikuma River.
If you visit during the twilight, you’ll get to admire the lively colors of the setting sun reflecting on the water surface.
In the evening, you can spot Hita citizens stopping at Kameyama Park and Mikumagawa Park near the river, just to appreciate the beauty of the river at sunset.
Picture courtesy of Hita City Tourism Department
The fireworks festival held every summer at the Mikuma River is another regular event in the lives of Hita citizens.
Mikuma River really is an irreplaceable element of the daily life of Hita and the people living there.
If you ever visit Hita, take some time to appreciate the soothing flow of Mikuma River, and to feel its grandiose aura reflecting upon the city and its citizens.
Amagase Onsen - Spacious Open-Air Baths on the Riverbank
Kusu River flowing through the central part of Amagase Onsen
If you head southeast of Hita Station for about 14 kilometers, you’ll reach Amagase Onsen.
Amagase Onsen is one of the three most famous hot spring resorts of Oita, Japan's No. 1 onsen prefecture, alongside Beppu and Yufuin. Its history goes back as far as 1300 years in the past.
The sight that proves right the reputation of Japan’s onsen capital is numerous hot spring facilities lining up along both sides of the Kusu River.
The source of the beautifully clear Kusu River is said to be the Handa Plateau of Mt. Kuju. It flows into the city of Hita and forms the Mikuma River together with the Oyama River.
Thanks to its clear water and shallowness, this river is perfect for sweetfish (ayu) live decoy fishing and similar leisure activities.
The most prominent trait of Amagase Onsen, however, is the kawayu. Kawayu are open-air baths (rotenburo) for both men and women. They are located right on the riverbank and are free to use for everyone!
They are operated by the local community and are extremely affordable – only 100 yen!
However, because this is a mixed-bathing type of a bath, with no changing rooms available nearby, it might be a bit challenging for first-time visitors.
To solve this problem, at some of the kawayu baths at Amagase Onsen, visitors are allowed to enter the water wearing swimsuits!
You can also use these especially designed yuamigi swimsuits. You can either buy one at Amagase Information Center or rent it at a hot spring ryokan.
Purchase fee: Yuamigi for women 1,080-3,900 yen/piece; yuamigi for men: trunks 648 yen, loincloth type 3,900 yen.
Rental fee: 300 yen per piece.
Rental places: Maruyamaso, Honjin, Hitaya, Fukuya, Yu no Kaso, Seitenkaku, Tenryuso
Kawayu baths where yuamigi swimsuits and towels may be used: Jindenyu, Yakushiyu.
Enjoying the bath surrounded by nature gives is really pleasant. Picture courtesy of Amagase Tourism Association
There is nothing like relaxing in a hot water bath surrounded by greenery and the sky while listening to the murmur of Kusu River.
You can enjoy this superb experience only at Amagase Onsen!
Another famous place in this area is Sakuradaki Falls, located about 10 minutes by foot from Amagase Station.
This waterfall got its name from its spray of water resembling the sight of cherry blossoms carried by the wind.
As it is possible to get very close to the falls, you can breathe in the refreshing air and feel the cold water sprinkling onto your skin.
If you would like to find out more about other famous spots in Amagase, feel free to visit the Amagase Information Center near the station!
Okuhita Onsen Umehibiki - Hot Springs and a Beautiful Gorge
If you take a walk along the Oyama River that flows through the southern part of Hita, you’ll find another hot spring area. This one, however, offers a slightly different experience from that of Amagase Onsen.
Oyama is famous for its plum production. If you decide to stay at Okuhita Onsen Umehibiki, you’ll get the chance to explore the unique plum culture of Oyama while enjoying your stay at an excellent hot spring resort.
By staying at Umehibiki, visitors can enjoy Japan's hot spring culture at its finest thanks to the wide variety of baths. You can relax in the large bath, rent out a private bath, or treat yourself to a room with a private open-air bath – the possibilities are countless.
Most of these baths offer a spectacular view over the Hibiki Gorge, allowing guests to enjoy their hot bath in a great mood.
The Morning Mist Terrace (Asamoya Terrace), located inside the facility, is the perfect place to gaze upon the Hibiki Gorge. This activity is available staying guests only, so don’t forget to inquire about it when checking in the lodging facility.
The interior of the facility and the guest rooms are decorated with plum blossom motifs. Not only does it create a sophisticated ambience but it allows the guests to relax in a charming, Japanese-like atmosphere.
Furthermore, the dishes prepared at the ryokan’s restaurants also celebrate the magnificent plum. The freshwater fish, tofu and vegetables, all prepared with fresh local ingredients, are complemented with Oyama's renowned umeboshi (pickled plum) or umeshu (plum liquor).
The plum liquor, umeshu, is produced at a liquor factory called Umeshugura Oyama, from the plums grown on the local Oyama orchards.
What made it possible to produce a delicious liquor like this one, which won the gold prize at the World Liquor Contest, is precisely the clear water found in the surrounding area.
The factory Umeshugura Oyama is adjacent to the building of Okuhita Onsen Umehibiki. In the same facility, you’ll find a shop where you can actually purchase Oyama's prize-winning umeshu liquor.
You can purchase various brands of umeshu or other fruit liquors at the shop. Also, if you’re up for it, you can test your umeshu-making skills by taking part in their hands-on activity.
Kotohira Onsen - Yume Sansui’s Family Bath
Kotohira Onsen is a hot spring area found along the Takase River that flows through the southern part of Hita City.
Kotohira Onsen Yume Sansui is famous for its family bathrooms, that can be rented privately so that the whole family can enjoy a bath.
Visitors can rent this type of bathroom anytime, no matter if they lodge at the facility or visit just for a few hours, so feel free to visit anytime.
Unlike other hot spring baths where younger children are usually not allowed to enter, this bath is safe for children as well. Visitors can choose from various bath types built with natural materials, such as hinoki cypress or mountain and river rocks.
The ambiance is comforting as you can admire the green scenery outside the window while soaking in the bath of natural hot spring water.
Picture courtesy of Kotohira Onsen Yume Sansui
At Yume Sansui, you’ll also find gender-segregated open-air baths located on the bank of Takase River. This luxurious bath will give you a chance to lay back and relax while enjoying your bath and the sound of water.
If you’re interested in staying for a longer period of time, that is possible, as well. The lodging facility of Yume Sansui is a mixture of Eastern and Western styles offering all the comfort of a modern home.
Hita's Water Culture - Clear Rivers, Waterfalls and Excellent Hot Springs
Hita became the prosperous city we see today thanks to the water transportation routes that flourished in the past. Its quality hot springs made it a popular holiday destination, while the wonderful natural scenery always attracted the attention of travelers.
If you decide to visit Hita, don’t stop just at Mamedamachi, the city's most famous sightseeing destination. Do take the time to feel and explore the nature that turned Hita into what it is today.
This way, your visit to Hita will most surely become an enriching experience and a cherished memory.
Supported by Hita City Tourism Department