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Wednesday, 10 April, 2002, 15:10 GMT 16:10 UK

Oita - Too hot to handle

Hot springs can be found across the whole of Japan, but Oita is practically bursting with them.

There are so many that visitors could be forgiven for leaving the area looking like a shrivelled prune after a session in one of the spa resorts.

Oita's main hot springs are Beppu and Yufuin, which have the biggest and most established resorts in Japan.

It is worth remembering the word "Jigoku" around these towns, because it means "Hell Areas" and represents the forceful heating power under these springs.

Area facts

  • Population: 450,000
  • Location: 400km west of Osaka on the island of Kyushu
  • Local team: None
  • Sights: Hot springs and spa resorts
  • Foreign links: Portuguese
  • But, situated on the most western of Japan's main four islands, Oita is also an area with an international air.

    In the past, it has often been a gateway to the Asian mainland and visitors from farther afield.

    At a distance of 600km, South Korea's capital city Seoul is nearer to Oita than the Japanese capital Tokyo, situated some 800km away.

    In fact, it has long been an important trading port for Japan with the Ming Dynasty of China and with Portugal for several centuries.

    Historically, Oita was the centre of many exchanges with Portuguese missionaries and traders for hundreds of years.

    Oita City is a modern industrial city focussing on semiconductor and IC production among other things.

    But something yet to be developed on Oita is a top-flight football side.

    The biggest team in the area is Oita Trinita, who are currently plugging away in the Japanese second division.

    No doubt, the arrival of the World Cup can only be good news for the region.

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