Perhaps you would agree that any Japan itinerary will not be complete in the absence of a quick visit to a local hot spring. Japan has some of the best hot springs (onsen) in the world and while some might be too far from your location, there are few select spots that are worth the visit.
Beppu City in Oita Prefecture, for instance, is home to eight of the most striking, though not meant for bathing, hot springs in Japan. Today, we’ll focus on one of these eight wonders, which is not only stunning but also has a “bloody” history!
Chinoike Jigoku, or “Blood Pond Hell” in English, the name itself describes this hot spring, which appears more like a small pool. It is blood red in color that can sometimes change shade depending on the weather. At times, it can appear to have a rust-like color, other times it is red-orange. Regardless of the shade of color, this small body of water never fails to draw attention.
With a steaming temperature of 78 degrees Celsius, it’s easy to see why this pond is off limits for bathing. You just can’t survive it! Plus, the presence of iron oxide and magnesium-rich clay at the bottom of the pond makes it even deadlier.
If there is something good that these chemicals have created, it would be the beautiful blood red color of the spring.
With Japan’s rich folktales and myths, it shouldn’t be a surprise to hear legends associated with popular sites. It not only enriches the historical value of the location but also satisfies guests’ curiosity.
Stories have it that the pond was used as a torture chamber sometime around 700 CE (Common Era). Subjects to the torture are said to undergo excruciating hours of plain physical pain as they are boiled to death. It isn’t clear what specific crimes warrant this hellish torture, but it’s likely that those falling under today’s grave criminal acts end up with this method of exacting justice.
Taking a step back from the pond’s disturbing tales, present-day Chinoike has developed into a commercial site that showcases its natural beauty and at the same time introduces products unique to the place.
Most popular among them is the Chinoike ointment, a pot of red clay produced from the pond. This product is said to help cure common skin diseases like eczema and burns.
Another must-try product on site is the Chinoike custard pudding which is modeled after the red pond itself.
Don’t be disappointed when you reach the place only to find out that it is not as big as what you had expected. First off, Chinoike is just a pond and not a big lake, so best to set proper expectations ahead of time.
There is a souvenir shop where you can buy featured products and even biscuits. If you’re up for some Instagram-worthy photos (because who isn’t?), you might want to try following the trail behind the pond. It will lead you to a strategic location where you can take a shot of the pond in all its glory.
Exploring the place might only take 10 minutes, leaving you ample time to explore the neighboring hot springs in the area!
Chinoike Jigoku Website *Japanese only