A typical experience with riding cable-cars into mountains is usually associated with a trip to a temple complex or castle. However, this time around, the vehicle coming down the track to take us up to our destination is in the form of an animated dog and my next stop is Beppu's Rakutenchi Amusement Park. First founded in 1929, this place continues to draw in families for a fun-filled day of food, rides, animals, and spectacular views.
Being that the park has celebrated their 80th anniversary in 2009 with renovations, it should come as no surprise that the park has quite the vintage feel to it. But how can you go wrong with a roller coaster in the mountains? In fact Rakutenchi features a variety of rides including the Super Chair, Frog Hopper, and a Ferris Wheel.
The pamphlet you receive upon entering breaks up the park into various "adventures." Other than the rides, there's a petting zoo featuring goats, donkeys, penguins, and monkeys. This also includes a duck race that's been going on since 1950. During the hotter seasons, there is a large water park where families can splash about and cool off. And if you're feeling adventurous, try walking the massively long, otsuribashi, or hanging bridge that connects the park between a small mountain pass where you can hear a waterfall down below. The bridge does tend to sway a bit with the wind, so have fun but take care!
There's ample choices for dining. I was surprised at the variety of restaurants ranging from typical "carnival food" to others serving curry, udon & soba, and of course the selection wouldn't be complete without dishes cooked from an onsen (natural hot spring). There's also a barbeque area that can be reserved in advance. You'd need to coordinate with the staff on times and regulations.
And if the kids have run you to exhaustion, there's a large tatami rest area and awesome observation deck where you can obtain some spectacular views of Beppu City. I hear it's best either during Sakura season or Autumn. I can only imagine with all the gorgeous, lush green that permeates the environment.
Access to Beppu Rakutenchi Park is only about a 6 minute cab ride from JR Beppu Station or 3 minutes from the Beppu Kamenoi Hotel. I certainly recommend this short trip for families to allow their kids to work out some of that energy, hopefully leaving time for you later to enjoy some of the various happenings Beppu has to offer.