This Luxury Resort in Japan Is Surrounded by More Than 2,000 Thermal Baths

In southern Japan, the newly opened ANA InterContinental Beppu Resort & Spa is surrounded by 2,217 hot springs.
December 24, 2019, 1:00 PM UTC
Views of Beppu.
InterContinental Hotels

Even with all eyes on Tokyo for the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympics, many other parts of Japan are experiencing explosive growth in international tourism. The imperial grandeur of Kyoto, the beaches of Okinawa, and the powdery slopes of Hokkaido have risen on the bucket lists of globetrotters everywhere.

But for discerning travelers looking to veer farther away from the beaten path, consider the city of Beppu on the southern island of Kyushu. The Japanese love its nearly 2,000 onsens, or hot springs baths, but for the just unveiled ANA-InterContinental Beppu Resort & Spa, there’s much more to this picturesque region than that—and they want to show it all off.

“Tourists who may have visited Japan before, they want to keep coming back and discover new horizons,” says Stephane Massarini, the hotel’s general manager. “Kyushu and Beppu offer so many opportunities to see a different side of Japan; from sea sides to mountains to huge landscapes and volcanoes along with natural wonders, [this area] is a truly unforgettable sight.”

The ANA InterContinental Beppu Resort & Spa
InterContinental Hotels

Unforgettable sights are a vital part of a stay at the ANA InterContinental Beppu Resort & Spa, the city’s first luxury hotel from an international hospitality brand. Many of its 89 hillside rooms and suites face towards downtown and beyond that, there’s the shimmering waters of Beppu Bay.  But between the property and the shore, it’s easy to see what has defined Beppu as a destination. Its landscape is dotted with countless plumes of smoke, creating a truly unique panorama while hinting at the bubbling springs underneath. The town is covered with onsens; many of these bathing facilities are open to the public for a few dollars.

Thus, it makes perfect sense that the hotel’s most obvious point of reference are these hot springs. After all, Beppu is home to the world’s second largest volume of these mineral-rich waters. The property has two beautiful outdoor onsens that guests can access. Though mixed-gender onsens exist in Japan, in most cases, men and women bathe separately, potentially because they are not permitted to wear anything during their soak. (There are many rules concerning proper onsen etiquette in Japan.)

The spa at the ANA InterContinental Beppu Resort.
InterContinental Hotels

At the InterContinental Beppu, men and women use different onsens, but the resort alternates who gets to use which every day so that guests who are staying for more than one day can try both. “Each has been designed with a selection and arrangement of Beppu stones that were selected by skilled masons, and placed by hand to create a waterfall effect,” Massarini explains. “So essentially it looks as if the hot spring water is overflowing from the mountain. One features sculptural Kakeyu rock; while the other offers a serene space with a Hinoki bath frame and picture window.”

One of the most stunning on-property experiences guests should consider is a breathtaking sunrise soak. (The onsens open at 5 a.m. local time.)  But the team at InterContinental understands that not everyone is going to feel wholly comfortable with nude, public bathing. Accordingly, 21 rooms and suites have been outfitted with their own outdoor bathtubs fed by hot spring waters. And there’s also a separate onsen facility that can be privately booked.

An outdoor onsen at the resort.
InterContinental Hotels

But for the resort, its location is much more than just the hot springs. Many of its features and amenities pay homage to the rich culture that can be found in and around Beppu. Completed in partnership with Tokyo’s Hashimoto Yukio Design Studio, the interiors, for instance, were heavily influenced by the natural splendor of the island. The soaring lobby’s slender columns mimic the trees of a dense forest and the rug underneath is an abstracted illustration of the shadows these trees might cast mixed with hot spring steam. There’s a washi wall reminiscent of a waterfall while another is a mosaic of local volcanic rocks. According to Massarini, the lobby’s visual narrative was intended to open up the guests’ senses as they begin their journey through the hotel. The ubiquitous aroma—a custom fragrance purposefully heavy on kabosu, a type of citrus popular in Beppu—serves to reinforce this sense of place.

The guest rooms—from a 667-square-feet deluxe priced at $500 per night to a palatial 2,282-square-foot two-bedroom suite (at $5,375 per night)—deliver an equally tranquil aesthetic that orbits around pale-wood furnishings that wouldn’t look out of place in a stylish, modern ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn with matted floors). Even in the spa, local inspiration abounds. To whit: Memoir of Beppu is a pampering treatment that includes a kabosu bath, a body wrap featuring onsen-soaked mud, and a back massage incorporating a hot compress that is first steeped in heated black sand from the beaches of Shoningahama, located not 15 minutes from the hotel.

The views from a private onsen room.
InterContinental Hotels

Elsewhere on the property, guests will find artistic details made exclusively for the property by Kyushu-based creatives, including photography, ceramics, and stunning lattice work. Bamboo weaving is a particularly popular craft in Beppu, and there are tons of items that showcase this craftsmanship, from a large-scale “cloud” installation by bamboo artist Hajime Nakatomi to a meticulously woven feature wall at the lobby bar. The hotel has also partnered with a local bamboo weaver who will receive visitors interested in learning more about the artisan tradition behind this pliable wood. It’s one of the thoughtful excursions the concierge team developed that will hopefully give travelers better insight on the region.

“Guest expectations have evolved through the years, and we know we need to deliver beyond an amazing property,” Massarini explains. “They want to hear those little personalized, ‘in the know’ details that will allow them to discover the destination like a local and get off the beaten path.”

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