Bathe, Drink and Be Merry (video)

Beppu Onsen in Oita

This ranking of Japan’s prefectures was recently published. 1. Oita 2. Kagoshima 3. Hokkaido 4. Shizuoka 5. Kumamoto It’s striking that three out of the top five prefectures—Oita, Kagoshima and Kumamoto—are in Kyushu. Can you guess what they’re being ranked by? And the answer is…the number of onsen hot springs.

Have a look at the stats below to see how many the individual prefectures have.. 1. Oita = 4,788 hot springs 2. Kagoshima = 2,824 3. Hokkaido = 2,304 4. Shizuoka = 2,283 5. Kumamoto = 1,388 Oita is top by a wide margin. It has almost 60% more onsen than second-place Kagoshima. Here’s another factoid for you to chew on—2,900 of all Oita’s hot springs (or 60% of the total) are in one place: Beppu.

Here’s another hot spring-related table. Can you guess what this one is? 1.Oita 2.Hokkaido 3.Kagoshima 4.Aomori 5.Kumamoto It’s for overall hot water flow by volume. Again, you can see that the same three prefectures from Kyushu—Oita, Kagoshima and Kumamoto—make it into the top five.

Beppu produces a whopping 130,000 liters of piping hot water every day. A worthy number one! There’s a Japanese saying that goes, “For mountains, there’s Fuji-san; for seas, there’s the Inland Sea; and for hot springs there’s Beppu.”

It may sound like an ancient proverb, but the phrase was actually coined by Aburaya Kumahachi (1863-1935), the man who first saw the potential of Beppu as a tourist destination. Aburaya also came up with idea of the “Hells of Beppu,” a tour of eight steaming onsen to hot to bathe in. What these rankings certainly show is that Kyushu is Japan’s hot spring heaven

Okay, now I’ve got another list for you. It’s connected with drinks (of the alcoholic kind). 1.Niigata 2.Nagano 3.Hyogo 4.Fukushima 5.Fukuoka This is a ranking of the prefectures by the number of sake breweries they contain. Kyushu’s Fukuoka rather surprisingly gets in at number five. When you start to look closely, though, the data about sake breweries is quite worrying. In 1994, there were 2,352 breweries in Japan. By 2009, that number had plunged to 1,711, meaning that 611 sake breweries (or more than one-quarter of the total!) shut down in just 15 years. That’s an alarming rate of decline. I’d like to finish off with another alcohol-related ranking, but this one is rather more cheerful. 1.Kagoshima 2.Miyazaki 3.Okinawa 4.Oita 5.Kumamoto As you can see, Kyushu takes ALL THE TOP FIVE POSITIONS in this one. (Go Kyushu!) Can you guess what this is for? …It’s for the quantity of shochu consumed on a per-prefecture basis. Clearly Kyushu people can out-drink anyone else in Japan! So let’s bathe, drink and be merry!