The objective of this paper is to clarify the urban development process of Beppu City and its formation as a modern hot spring resort, from the beginning of the Meiji period until the outbreak of the Second World War.
One characteristic of the urban development of Beppu is that it began relatively early for Japan, and inter-city transportation between Beppu and Oita was established as early as 1900. These early developments were mainly realized by private capital, especially the transportation route between Beppu and Oita, which was operated by mainly local magnates and people from Ehime Prefecture. The urban development that started in the Meiji period eventually became the basis for Beppu’s modern hot spring tourism.
During the Taisho period, short-term visitors to Beppu increased. Cheap inns, built originally for customers of therapeutic baths, were converted into hotels, and additionally many accommodation facilities for short-term visitors were built. Moreover, land consolidation projects were carried out, and these newly-adjusted areas became home to new accommodation and entertainment facilities. The popularity of Beppu as a tourist destination gained momentum when the entrepreneur Aburaya Kumahachi and the city government started promoting and advertising it as a tourist destination.
When Beppu achieved the status of a city in 1924, tourism development was progressing well, and even more leisure complexes were constructed. From the beginning of the Showa period in 1926, the Beppu government started to advertise to tourists on an international scale. Two expositions were held, but after the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937, the number of foreign tourists started to decrease, and when the war situation worsened, the number of Japanese tourists also declined.