When in Beppu, other than the 8 hell pools, you must also visit the local onsen to experience the black sand onsen which is unique to the region. There are 3 outlets that provide the black sand onsen, 2 by the beach and 1 in the oldest onsen in Beppu. We decided to head to the oldest onsen Takegawara Onsen since it is pretty famous and opens till a late timing
The Takegawara Onsen itself has been in the same location since 1879 and initially the roof was built with bamboo tiles which is why the name of the onsen is Takegawara (bamboo tile). In 1938, the roof of the onsen is rebuilt with a Chinese luxurious gabled roof which is what you can see in the current building
The moment you enter the onsen, you have to remove your shoes and place them either in the lockers for ¥10 which is refunded when you retrieve your shoes, or just place them at the shelves if the lockers run out
The main hall of the onsen is very spacious with many seats for customers to wait for their turn. All the wood pillars and ceilings have been here since the 1930s but is very well maintained. You instantly feel like you have stepped back in time as the look and décor of the building is filled with historic nostalgia.
All customers have to purchase their tickets and get their Yukata or towels from the counter.
The ticket machine is fairly easy to use with English instructions and a staff by the side also always ready to assist you when needed. The sand bath is at ¥1030 per adult and if you need a towel, it is at ¥200. If you wish to only use the hot springs, the entry is at ¥100 only. There is a whole list of amenities you can purchase as well like razor, toothbrush, etc
It is really interesting to see how the hair dryer and mirror is placed outside in the main hall for customers who are here for the bath only. Many people staying around the area actually come here for their bath and hot spring and there is a great feeling of community
To help foreigners, they also put up short pictorial guides to help them on using the hot springs
There are various dispense machine for snack and drinks to help customers pass their time as the sand bath is very popular and the queue is usually long. We had to wait for 1hr 45 mins to get to our turn. Each customer purchasing the ticket to the sand bath will receive a set of yukata and a number ticket. When it is your turn, the counter will call out your number in Japanese.
The entrance to the sand bath is located at the left side of the building and is separated to male and female for the changing room.
The changing room is very small with a small shower area as well as a small hot springs pool.
There are also lockers for you to put your belongings and clothing. All customer have to change into their Yukata without any clothes and underwear underneath.
Again you will see these instructions for visitors on what to do before and after the sand bath. So firstly you get into your Yukata and enter the sand bath, once it is over, you have to take a bath at the changing area and leave the soiled Yukata in the baskets provided.
The sand bath area is open to both gender since everyone is clothed in their Yukata. The staff will prepare the areas for the guests to lie down. You can pass you keys or phone to them for safe keeping as they will tell you which slot to lie down
You can ask the staff to help you take pictures while you are buried in the sand. The feeling is surreal while you lie down and the staff plonk the warm sand on top of your body. It feels slightly heavy but warm and relaxing. The entire experience takes about 40 mins from the time you lie down to the time they put the sand on you. The actual time you get to enjoy being buried in the sand is only about 15 mins.
My experience from this is that, you should try to be the first few to enter the sand bath area to be buried as the sand is hotter and you do not have to wait around. As we were the last few entering, we were the last to be buried so I feel that the sand was not hot enough. Nevertheless, I think this is a very unique and interesting experience that everyone should try when in Beppu. I heard the experience by the beach is even more exciting as you can enjoy the sea breeze. However, Takegawara does provide that historic atmosphere with a different feeling.
Address:１６-23 Motomachi, Beppu, Oita 874-0000, Japan
Operating hours: 6.30 am to 10.30 pm