Just in front of Beppu station there stands a larger-than life statue of Aburaya Kumahachi. Often called the “Father of Beppu Tourism”, his vision facilitated Beppu’s rise to fame as a world-renowned tourist destination.
Born in neighboring Ehime Prefecture in 1863, young Aburaya learned the importance of hard work. He moved to Osaka in 1893 and started a successful rice business. When his luck ran out 4 years later, he boarded a ship and went to the US. For the next three years he travelled through North America and learned about the tourism industry.
When he returned to Japan, he chose Beppu as his new home. He saw the great tourism potential of Beppu’s hot springs. Known as an “idea man”, Mr. Kumahachi opened Kamenoi Ryokan in 1911. He travelled to Osaka and Tokyo to advertise Beppu’s wonders. Thanks to his persuasion, a ferry company agreed to start a new ferry route between Kansai and Beppu. Before long, thousands of Japanese tourists poured into the city and Beppu gained fame as Japan’s number one hot spring resort.
Among his many great accomplishments, Mr. Kumahachi was the first person to introduce bus guides in Japan. His motto, “Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers”, lives on in the hearts of Beppu’s tourism industry workers.