Beppu and Usa
Ancient Temples and Hot Springs
Beppu is one of the most seismically active cities in Japan. It is surrounded by Onsen, Japanese hot springs. Our Beppu city tour took us to “hell,” the name given to an intense concentration of hot springs, including “mud pots” and hissing springs of boiling water. Hell was the name given by local residents to this location located within a mile of central Beppu.
In addition to Beppu’s Hell Onsen, we traveled inland from the coast about an hour to the city of Usa. Located in Usa is a complex of Shinto temples constructed thirteen hundred years ago. They are well-maintained and a popular tourist destination. Our Japanese guide was the best of our trip, due to the fact that she had studied in the US and spoke excellent English. She explained the rituals practiced by religious visitors to the Shinto temples. She also explained the distinctions between Japanese Shintoism and Buddhism. She also explained that modern Japanese people are not as religious as past generations. (This is a worldwide phenomenon.) Nonetheless, visitors follow the traditional prayer rituals of clapping (to get the gods’ attention) and bowing to the temple while making a single prayer request. Multiple requests of the gods are not allowed. I had feelings similar to those I had in visiting ancient Christian cathedrals and Islamic mosques. One can only marvel at the strength of religious beliefs that led to the construction of these impressive buildings which have survived for many centuries.