Let Local Friends Take You Off the Beaten Track[PR]

TOMODACHI GUIDE offers you a special experience!

Beppu Onsen in Kyushu’s Oita Prefecture, is the largest hot spring district in Japan. Unlike famous cities such as Tokyo and Kyoto, however, you will find little information about it, even in guidebooks. Imagine having Japanese friends to bring you to the best spots in Beppu, where you can have a memorable time together.

When visiting a local tourist spot for the first time, the “TOMODACHI GUIDE” service can introduce local people looking to become companions with foreigners and show them around as they would their own friends.

Panorama of Beppu
Panorama of Beppu

Your guides are people who actually live in the area. They can provide a “personalized travel experience” by tailoring your trip according to that day’s traffic or weather conditions. TOMODACHI GUIDE lets you consult with your guides in advance about where you’d like to go, what you want to do and any concerns you may have. You’ll be able to get along right after you meet in person and have a relaxing journey.

Additionally, on the day of your trip an interpreter will be paired with your guide to assist you in communicating, letting you enjoy worry-free travels. After meeting up with your local guide, you can just enjoy the ride!

In Oita Prefecture, where Beppu is located, there are more than 30 people* registered as guides.

(*) As of January 2017

TOMODACHI GUIDE's hosts and guests
TOMODACHI GUIDE’s hosts and guests

If you wish to use TOMODACHI GUIDE, the first thing to do is search the TOMODACHI GUIDE website for a guide you think you could get along with, and ask them to plan a trip for you.

On this occasion, we were intrigued by the “Let’s become an Onsen Master !!” itinerary by famous Beppu hot springs guide Saaya, so we got in touch with her right away.

You can discuss travel plans with your guide
You can discuss travel plans with your guide

After consulting with Beppu guide Saaya, we came up with a fascinating itinerary.

But…how do we get from Tokyo to Oita?

When we expressed concerns about costs, Saaya told us about the “ANA Experience JAPAN Fare” – a great way for foreign tourists to get around by buying a one-way flight to anywhere in Japan for 10,800 yen.

If you book through the ANA website at least three days prior to traveling, you can fly one way for 10,800 yen from any of the domestic airports where ANA operates. We immediately reserved a round-trip ticket from Tokyo to Oita. “We can’t wait to get to Japan!”

To Oita by plane! Save on money and time!

Meeting with your guide at Beppu Station
Meeting with your guide at Beppu Station

We arrived at Oita airport by plane from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. We met our guide and interpreter team, Saaya and Kanako, in the waiting area. It was of course our first meeting, but since we had chatted in advance about our trip we greeted each other with a smile and said “It’s nice to finally meet you!”

Chinoike Jigoku (Blood Red Hot Spring of Hell)
Chinoike Jigoku (Blood Red Hot Spring of Hell)

“Let’s become an Onsen Master!” offers an itinerary for enjoying unique hot springs, including Chinoike Jigoku (Blood Red Hot Spring of Hell). When I first saw the blood-red boiling water, I turned to Saaya in surprise. “You really want me to take a bath in this?” I asked. “No way!” came her reply. “The water here is 98°C (208.4°F)! It’s just for looking!” Saaya explained. One sightseeing route through Beppu lets you view hot springs said to resemble visions of hell.

We laughed out loud and took photos with Saaya and her friend in front of each spring.

Jigoku Mushi (hell-steaming)
“Hell Steaming”

We decided to move on to Kannawa Onsen for lunch. We heard about Jigoku Mushi (literally “hell steaming”), an unusual cooking method whereby food is steamed over the hot spring’s vapors. We watched in surprise as all kinds of produce, from vegetables to seafood, was put in bamboo baskets and immersed in the steam. Imagine, even a whole crab!

Bathing in hot springs at last! Am I allowed to be a little embarrassed?

Relaxing in an outdoor tub
Relaxing in an outdoor tub

In the afternoon, we were taken to a hot spring day spa inn called Mugen no sato Shunka Shuto (“Spring, summer, autumn and winter”) in Horita Onsen. It was our first time visiting a Japanese hot spring and I was a little nervous since I had been told there was a special etiquette to follow. Saaya, however, went over it with us in detail, and all our worries vanished.

We tried the large bathing area and open-air bath and, after overcoming the initial embarrassment of getting naked in public, found it extremely enjoyable. I couldn’t stay in the hot water for long, though, and I wondered how Saaya could bear it. “For Japanese, soaking in 42°C (107.6°F) hot water is extremely relaxing,” she explained. Japanese people seem to have a very high tolerance for heat…

Beauty care at  Beppu Kaihin Sunayu
Beauty care at Beppu Kaihin Sunayu

After that, we tried a hot sand bath at a place called Beppu Kaihin Sunayu. When I heard that I’d be buried in the sand wearing a yukata, I thought to myself in wonder, “What kind of hot spring is this?” I was covered head to toe in sand heated by the steam of hot springs. My body warmed up and I broke into a sweat. Just as I was considering getting out, Saaya told me about the sand bath’s beautifying effects, and I forgot all about leaving…

Steam rising from Beppu's streets
Steam rising from Beppu’s streets

Since all the time spent in the hot springs made us very hot, we opted for a sudden change of plan and decided to go walking around Beppu city. Saaya and Kanako were well prepared for this. Looking down from their favorite lookout points, the town looked really beautiful. I totally fell in love with Beppu.

Become friends with your hosts and guides
Become friends with your hosts and guides

Our fun-filled day flew by and it was soon time to part ways. We got along greatly with Saaya and Kanako, and we were sad to say goodbye. “We’ll definitely come back to Japan, so you have to promise to be our guides again!” we said.

We applied to TOMODACHI GUIDE out of curiosity and it turned out to be a truly unforgettable experience.

Special travel offers for foreign visitors

You can fly from Haneda Airport to Oita in little less than two hours, with one-way discounted prices when booking in advance starting at 20,000 yen. Last-minute bookings cost around 40,000 yen.

With the ANA Experience JAPAN Fare,” if you reserve online at least three days before boarding you can fly to any domestic airport where ANA operates for only 10,800 yen each way. Travelers can save approximately 50-75 percent on the Haneda-Oita route. A round trip offers savings of more than 60,000 yen!

The “ANA Experience JAPAN Fare” is not only for the Haneda-Oita route, but valid on all routes throughout Japan, from Hokkaido to Okinawa. With careful planning, you could travel across the entire country by taking advantage of this convenient offer.


TOMODACHI GUIDE is a great way to meet guide and interpreter teams who have expert knowledge of local areas. Rather than a travel agency, the service pairs guides and interpreter with visitors. Unlike agency-arranged tours, it allows you to enjoy traveling with your hosts as you would with friends. Although the guides may recommend certain travel itineraries, they are always flexible and open to change to meet travelers’ needs.

A guide-recommended itinerary
A guide-recommended itinerary

On this occasion, we introduced a guide from Oita (Beppu). TOMODACHI GUIDE has guides/interpreters registered across the whole of Japan, including Kamakura, Hokkaido and Kyoto. If you find a guide or plan which tickles your interest, don’t hesitate to inquire!