Date : December 8 - 9, 2022
Report: Oita Press Tour
post date : 2023.01.10
With the most hot spring sources and the highest volume of hot spring water in Japan, Oita is known as Japan’s No.1 “onsen prefecture.” This tour covered Oita’s world-class onsen culture as represented by Yunohanagoya and jigoku mushi cuisine; the use of geothermal resources to work towards carbon neutrality; fermentation and brewing culture in Usuki, designated as a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy; and the appeal of Oita culture such as DRUM TAO, an Oita-based group which performs around the world.
A total of 10 journalists joined this tour, from media organizations based in China, France, Germany, South Korea, Taiwan, the US, and Vietnam.
*This press tour was sponsored by Oita Prefecture and organized and operated by Foreign Press Center Japan.
*For details on the tour stops, see the press tour notice.
<Myoban Onsen (Yunohanagoya)>
The tour visited Myoban Onsen, where there are thatch huts known as Yunohanagoya. Company president Ms. Satomi Iikura showed the tour around. The tour saw inside the Yunohanagoya, where Yunohana (a medicinal powder added to baths) is made, and heard about the features of the triangular thatch huts and how Yunohana is made. The journalists asked questions about the history of Myoban Onsen, the state of tourism during the COVID-19 pandemic, and plans for exporting products overseas. Ms. Iikura stated that the number of foreign tourists to Japan was expected to increase even further in the future, and said she wanted to continue working together with her staff after they overcame the pandemic together.
<Jigoku Mushi Cuisine (Hyotan Onsen)>
To learn about jigoku mushi cuisine, a type of cooking using geothermal energy that is unique to hot springs, the tour visited Hyotan Onsen, a famous day-trip onsen facility in Kannawa, and heard about the features of this cooking from Hyotan Onsen’s company president, Mr. Hitoshi Tanaka. The journalists asked about the history of jigoku mushi as a cooking method, and what kind of flavors were characteristic of it. Mr. Tanaka explained that the natural elements contained in the steam, such as sulfur, brought out the natural umami of the ingredients. After gathering around the steamed food to take pictures, the journalists had the opportunity to taste this cuisine using geothermal power, unique to Beppu Onsen.
<Interview with Mr. Katsusada Hirose, Governor of Oita>
The journalists heard from Oita governor Mr. Katsusada Hirose about Oita Prefecture’s main policies looking toward the post-COVID-19 era, including the revitalization of the tourism industry after the pandemic, the creation of space businesses, and initiatives for carbon neutrality. In the Q&A session that followed, the journalists asked a number of questions about the possibilities of geothermal and other renewable energies to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, and when asked about Oita Prefecture’s tourism strategy for after the pandemic, Mr. Hirose stated that the number of tourists was gradually recovering, and the future looked bright for a recovery of the tourism industry.
<2019 Rugby World Cup Monument>
The tour heard from Mr. Kenji Aimoto of the Oita Prefecture Central Oita Development Office’s Regional Revitalization Section, who was involved in the installation of a statue known as The Lionman, which was installed to commemorate the 2019 Rugby World Cup. The journalists asked about the reason behind making a monument and the history of rugby in Oita, and Mr. Aimoto explained that one reason for the monument was so citizens could feel close to art in their lives.
The tour visited Usukiyaki Lab, a pottery workshop in Usuki, which helped revive the lost art of Usukiyaki after 200 years and intends to use it to help promote the town. Mr. Hiroyuki Usami, president of Usukiyaki Lab, showed the tour the workshop where several artisans were working while giving an overview of the business. The journalists took pictures and videos of the potters as they worked, and asked questions about who tended to purchase Usukiyaki and how they found new potters to hire. Mr. Usami explained that many of the company’s current potters had moved to Usuki from elsewhere, and he hoped to see more Usuki locals join in the future.
<Walking Tour in Nioza, Usuki>
Led by Ms. Miwa Koya, an Usuki Townscape Tour Guide, the tour walked around the Nioza district of Usuki, which retains the unique scenery of a castle town even today. Starting from the Usuki Castle ruins, the tour saw Haccho Oji, Nioza’s main road, and small cobblestone streets with historical old residences and temples, taking pictures and videos of the traditional cityscape while learning of Usuki’s history.
<Kani Shoyu and Kotegawa Shuzo>
Established in 1600, miso and soy sauce maker Kani Shoyu forms the roots of Usuki’s fermentation culture. The tour heard from Ms. Akiko Kani about the history of this company which is over 400 years old, and the characteristics of the various products in the store. The journalists took photos and videos of the impressive exterior of the store, as well as sampling its famous miso ice cream and buying some of its flagship products.
At Kotegawa Shuzo, a sake and shochu brewery founded in 1855, the tour heard from the manager, Mr. Katsuyoshi Mine, about their traditional process for making shochu, before taking photos and videos of the large clay pots that each year’s batch of shochu is aged in, and of the wooden barrel stills used to make the shochu. The journalists asked about the secret to making good shochu, and afterwards had the opportunity to taste the local sake and shochu, which impressed the journalists with the depths of their flavor.
<Outdoor Theatre TAO no Oka>
The tour visited TAO no Oka, the main concert venue for DRUM TAO, and while surrounded by glamourous stage outfits heard from former DRUM TAO member and senior executive of the TAO Cultural Foundation Ms. Maki Morifuji. She spoke about DRUM TAO’s activities during the pandemic, the hard training the members undergo daily in order to put on high-quality performances, and some anecdotes from when she was a member. Afterwards, the journalists were able to see an impressive 10-minute long Japanese drum performance at a “stage under the sky” with an elevation of 1,036 meters, which they took photos and videos of.
<Kur Park Nagayu >
At Kur Park Nagayu, the tour heard from manager Mr. Kosei Kamata about the concept behind Kur Park Nagayu and an overview of the facilities, before enjoying a lunch made using plenty of local ingredients. The journalists asked questions about topics such as the coexistence of onsen facilities and geothermal power in Oita Prefecture, with its ample geothermal resources.
<Kyushu Electric Power Company's Hatchobaru Geothermal Power Plant>
The tour visited Kyushu Electric Power Company's Hatchobaru Geothermal Power Plant, and after hearing an overview of the power plant from Mr. Joji Umeno, manager of the plant’s museum, they were led around the plant by a guide, and were so interested in taking photos and videos of all the facilities they spent more time than planned. The journalists asked questions about challenges for the adoption of geothermal power and what merits it had. Mr. Umeno explained that they carefully explained the nature of the project to local residents and gained their understanding before carrying out detailed geological surveys, and only then began construction.
<Obayashi Corporation Geothermal Power Green Hydrogen Production Plant>
At this hydrogen production plant which Obayashi Corporation built in Kokonoemachi, the first demonstration experiment in Japan is being carried out for the whole process of using electricity made from geothermal power to electrolyze water and produce green hydrogen, which is then supplied to various users. The journalists visited the plant located in the mountains, and heard from Mr. Hitoshi Nagatsugu of Obayashi Corporation about the facilities and the project, and the possibilities for green hydrogen using geothermal power. The journalists asked about the profitability of green hydrogen and about its commercialization.
◆Below are some of the reporting based on this tour.
"Japanisch Kochen ohne Strom und Gas" (December 10)
Stars and Stripes Pacific（USA）
"VIDEO: Head to Oita City for winter wonderland of lights" (December 9)
"VIDEO: Traditional thatch huts producing therapeutic sinter for 300 years" (January 5, 2023)
"VIDEO: Beautiful castle town with unique gastronomical traditions" (January 12, 2023)
"VIDEO: Soak in Oita’s famous hot springs, enjoy steamed at Hyotan Onsen and Kur Park Nagayu" (January 23, 2023)
"VIDEO: Geothermal energy plants in Oita, Japan, pumping clean energy" (February 9, 2023)
"Oita: Onsen capital known for nature, sustainable culture" (March 9, 2023)
Vietnam News Agency （Vietnam）
（January 15, 2023）
（January 15, 2023）
（January 16, 2023）
"Steam cuisine: cooking in Japan's hot springs" (March 13, 2023)