Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The 34 Most Beautiful Places in Oita Prefecture, Japan

So, the other day I was checking CNN's website, and I saw this article:

Japan's 34 most beautiful places

Side note: Why 34?  Why not 26 or 42?  Apparently lists of 34 are a thing now?  A google search for "34 most" shows that a lot of people are counting to 34 now on their listicles.  Does anyone know why?  Was this some meme I missed?

Anyway, back to the point...

"Hmm," I thought.  "I sure saw a lot of beautiful stuff in Oita prefecture.  I wonder if any of that made their list."

So, I checked it out, and sure enough, there were 2 entries from Oita prefecture on CNN's list: the Kintestu Beppu Ropeway (at number 6) and Usa Shrine (at number 14).

Now, don't get me wrong, I like both the Kintestu Beppu Ropeway and Usa Shrine.  Beppu, as a city, certainly has its charms, and Usa Shrine is tremendously historically and culturally important.  But I wouldn't particularly put them on a list of the 34 most beautiful places in Japan.  They wouldn't even make my list of the 34 most beautiful places in Oita prefecture.

So, I decided to go through the photos on my blog archives and come up with my own list of the 34 most beautiful places in Oita prefecture.
I've done my best to rank these in order.  (Number 1 is the most beautiful, and they gradually get less impressive from there.)  Of course the standard disclaimers for any sort of subjective list apply. These are just my personal feelings, and other people will take different views. And, to the extent that one's own personal feelings are difficult to quantify, and given that feelings are inherently unstable and change from day-to-day, I'm not even sure it's a perfect reflection of that.
In addition to the standard disclaimers, I've got 4 more special disclaimers for this list.

Disclaimer 1: Unfortunately, I never got around to visiting all of Oita prefecture, so this list unfortunately omits Kamitsue-Mura, Notsuhara-Machi, Hasama-Machi, Shonai Machi, Ogi-Machi, Kuju-Machi, Naoiri-Machi, Kiyokawa Mura, Asaji-Machi, Ono-Machi, Chitose-Machi, Inukai-Machi, Nostu-Machi, Yayoi-Machi, Honjo-Mura, Ume-Machi, and Naokawa-Mura.
If anyone is reading this from any of those towns, let me know what I missed in the comments.

Disclaimer 2: Because these lists work best as visuals, I'm only going to include what I have photos for.  Any descriptions that are only in written form aren't included on this list.
I am, however, giving myself some lee-way on the quality of my photos.  There are, for example, some really beautiful places in Oita prefecture that I didn't quite do justice on film--sometimes because the flat screen can't really capture how impressive these sprawling landscapes are in real life.  Other times because I took my photos at the wrong time of year.  (Most of these places look most beautiful in spring and summer, when all the vegetation is in full bloom.  But unfortunately several of these photos I took during the winter).
In these cases, I'm just going to post my photo, and then make a short disclaimer about how the photo doesn't really do it justice.

Disclaimer 3: Related to disclaimer 2, the camera I used back in 2007-2009 was never really top of the line, even at the time.  But technology has moved on now so that these pictures look embarrassingly low-resolution compared to the average picture you see on Facebook these days.  But these pictures are what I've got, so these are what I'm using.
That being said, to see these pictures in their full resolution (for whatever that may or may not be worth) click the pictures to see the enlarged version.  (But of course you already knew that, you technical person you.)

Disclaimer 4: In order to keep this post from getting cluttered, I've limited myself to only one photo per place.  In cases where one photo doesn't quite do the place justice, I've included links to my other photos in the text description.

1. Sora no Koen (sky park) in Yonozu

This picture doesn't do it justice, because the view is really best experienced in 360 degrees--standing up on the hilltop, and seeing all the wide blue ocean and mountains laid out before you was breathtaking.

2. Harajiri Waterfall in Ogata Town

Again, a picture doesn't really do it justice.  It's a horse-shoe shaped waterfall, so you really have to see it from all 3 sides (something I couldn't capture in this picture).  Also, this picture is from fall, but to see the Waterfall at its fullest, it's best to go in spring just after the rainy season--see here.

3. Ryumon Waterfall in Kusu (Or possibly in Kokonoe.  I got a bit confused on the exact town boarders with this one.)

This picture isn't bad, but it doesn't get all the angles.  To see the pool at the top, look here.  For the view looking down, see here.

4.  Higashishiya Waterfall in Ajimu

At the risk of becoming a broken record, once again the picture doesn't really do it justice.  You have to see it up close to appreciate how big and magnificent it is.

5. Fukino Waterfall in Ajimu

This picture was taken at the lookout point, overlooking Fukino Waterfall.  But you can also walk up to the base of the waterfall, and get some great views from there as well--see here for example.

6. The view from the Road leading to Hatozu Beach in Kamae Town

There are tons of great views like this along the Southern part of Oita prefecture of the mountains running into the ocean.

7. Seaside Temple on Himeshima Island

The actual temple is not so impressive, but the seaside around it is amazing.  Unfortunately I couldn't capture all this one one photo, but see here for the view to the left of this temple.  

8.  Aoi No Domo in Honyabakei

This is a view from the cliffs of the valley below.  A view of the river below the cliffs can be seen here.  I regret to say I never got a good picture of the cliffs themselves.  

9. Taikkiri Valley in Innai

A beautiful little walk down a lovely little river.  It culminates with a view of a Waterfall, which you can view from the top looking down.  (Or at least, you can view it if you ignore the safety signs).  See here for the waterfall at the end.

10. Waterfall in Yabekei

If I ever knew the name of this particularly waterfall, I've forgotten it.  (We always just called it the "Yabakei Waterfall" during my days.)  The river leading down to this waterfall is quite beautiful as well.  See here.  

11. The view of the rivers in Yufuin

The peaceful rivers in the town of Yufuin can be very beautiful, especially during Cherry Blossom season.

12. Fukami Valley in Ajimu

There are a lot of beautiful valleys in Oita Prefecture, but this is one of my favorites.  You can see the rice fields along the valley carved in like steps.  See here for a better view of the terraced rice fields.

13. Sakura Waterfall in Amagase

This is just off the road from a small charming faux-Bavarian bath house town on the river.  See here for pictures of that town.

14. 3 Day Moon Waterfall in Kusu

For the view from the front of the waterfall, see here.

15.  Kamidozaki Natural park and look out point in Kamiura

For the view from the left side, see here.

16.  Monkey Jumping Point in Yamakuni

Another place where the pictures don't really do it justice.  But when the river is full after rainy season, this river turns into an impressive rapids between these big rocks.

17. Jion Waterfall in Kusu (or possibly in Amagase--the map was a bit confusing)

18. Peace Park on Mount Hachiman in Sanko Mura

The picture doesn't really do it justice, but this is a beautiful example of a Japanese garden built into a mountain slope.  So as you keep climbing up, you keep seeing more and more of the garden.
It's hard to really capture all the views of Mount Hachiman in one picture.  For more pictures, see the Sanko Mura post.

19.  Kanarase Mountain Hike in Innai

The picture doesn't do it justice.  In part because it's hard to summarize a 3 hour hike in one photo.  (For more photos, see my post on Innai.)  And also, because I took this photo at the wrong time of year, in November, when most of the foliage had died for the winter.  To see this in its full glory, go in late spring.

20. Kyusuikei Gorge in Kokonoe

The famous bridge in Kokonoe is just a tourist trap, but the views of the Kyusuikei Gorge leading up to it are absolutely gorgeous.  Also a beautiful little waterfall is on the road going up this gorge--see here.

21. Nokogiri Mountain Hike in Yamaga

This is another hike that goes on for a long time, and is impossible to completely capture in one photo.  For more photos, see my post on Yamaga.

22. Asahidai scenic overlook in Kokonoe

Kokonoe is filled with these gorgeous views of long flat stretches of land with mountains in the background.  The static image of the camera doesn't really do justice to the beautiful long stretches of road.  The road through the Handa plateau in Kokonoe is actually probably more impressive than the Asahidai scenic overlook when you drive through it in person, but the Asahidai scenic overlook comes out better on film, so I'm putting it up here.  (For a picture of the Handa plateau, though, see here.)  

23. Oka Castle in Taketa

The ruins of an old castle, now covered with grass and cherry blossom trees.

24. Sento Mountain Hike in Kunimi

This is another long hike that is impossible to summarize in one picture.  For more pictures from this hike, see mm post on Kunimi.  For a great view from the top of the mountain, see here.

25. Yamakuni River in Yabakei

This picture is from Yabakei, but the whole stretch of road following the Yamakuni river also includes Honyabakei and Yamakuni town.  It's a beautiful drive following a river valley winding its way between the mountains.  (This picture doesn't do it justice, first of all because it's a very long river that can't be captured in one photo, secondly because the foliage was not yet in full bloom on the mountains when I took it.)

26. Kirikabu Mountain in Kusu

This is the view from the top of Kirikabu looking down.  For a view of the mountain from the ground, see here.  

27. Takahira Park Look Out Point in Kamae

This picture doesn't capture the full 360 view, so also see here and here.  

28. Mount Yufu in Yufuin (also on the border with Beppu)

This is the view looking up the mountain.  For a view looking down at the town below, see here.  

29. Hita River in Hita

Perhaps to fully appreciate, you need to see it at night when it's all decorated with paper lanterns.  Also, although this picture is off the main downtown stretch, the most beautiful parts of the river are just slightly downstream, here and here.

30. View of the Ocean from Tagauraenchi Peace Park in Tsurumi

If some of these pictures are starting to get repetitive, it's because a lot of Southern Oita is nothing but mountains against the oceans.  But I never complained.  The sight of those lush green mountains against the deep blue ocean always looked beautiful to me.

31. The rice fields in the valley of Ogata

I was fortunate enough to catch Ogata on a beautiful sunny summer day when I went down there.  But in addition to its beautiful waterfall, Ogata also has gorgeous green rice fields carved into the valley.  See also this picture here.  

32.  Futago Shrine in Kunisaki (or possibly in Bungo Takeda--the border is unclear).

A beautiful shrine in the middle of a mountain forest.

33. Sen no Iwa in Ajimu

Unfortunately I totally took these pictures at the wrong time of year.  But on a spring day this area looks a lot greener and sunnier, and these rock formations are really cool.  For a view from the top, see here.  

34. Kakaji Mountain in Kakaji

Another long hike that is impossible to capture in one photo.  For more photos see my post on Kakaji.  Also, although this was my first and only trip to Kakaji mountain, I'm relatively sure this must have looked more beautiful in the spring when all the foliage was in bloom. 

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