Beppu’s Bloody Hell Pond

Japan is an island nation rich in natural hot springs, or onsen. Thousands of onsens all over the country serve as public bathing areas for anyone wanting to experience a must-try aspect of Japanese culture.

Chinoike Jigoku. | Elvin

Beppu city in Ōita Prefecture is strategically nestled between the sea and mountains, making it a popular spot for its hot springs.

It has eight geothermal hot spots (Earth’s internal heat), also known as the Eight Hells of Beppu.

The Iyo-no-Kuni Topography (now known as  Ehime Prefecture), written sometime in the early 8th century, tells us that the deities Sukunabikona and Ōkuninushi  once visited Iyo-no-Kuni. Sukunabikona was weak from illness and fainted. Concerned, Ōkuninushi placed a long pipe at the bottom of the sea that stretched all the way from Dōgo Onsen in the city of Matsuyama to Beppu, to supply the therapeutic thermal waters for him to bathe. This eventually revived him and made him well again.

During the Kamakura period, Ōtomo Yoriyasu established a sanatorium in the area to cure samurais who were wounded in the war against the Mongolian Army. Since the Meiji period, Beppu onsen has been known for its many healing benefits.

Bloody Hell Pond. | Hiroshi TOKUSA

One particular onsen in Beppu stands out for its unique appearance, the Chinoike Jigoku or Bloody Hell Pond.  Its waters are a scorching 78 degrees Celsius, more suitable for cooking rather than bathing. Its boiling waters are rich in iron oxide, giving the pool its characteristic blood red color.

Since 700 C.E., the Chinoike Jigoku has been notoriously mentioned for its striking appearance which according to Buddhist beliefs, resembles an entry to hell.

It is also said that Bloody Hell Pond was used to torture people by boiling them to death.

Beppu onsen. | かがみ~

Today, it is a popular site for visitors to the area. Several types of skin products are sold that are made from the mud of Chinoike Jigoku.