I'd recommend a stop at the traditional shochu brewery in the historic Niiza district and a caramel-lile soy sauce topped ice cream from one miso and soy maker's shops as well. If you're around in winter, the fugu is the best around and amazing.
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As a 16 year Oita resident, I could go on and on but here are a few additional recommendations:
Usuki: A unique castle town with many temples, a recreated Jesuit monastery, and a shochu brewery to explore. The castle ruins held the first cannon in Japan. Don't miss the miso shops, the soy sauce ice cream, and spectacular fugu.
Taketa: Another great castle town with ruins that are spectacular in fall and when the cherry blossoms bloom in string.
Saiki: A dream for sushi lovers with honestly some of the best you will ever have anywhere. Fukusushi is a personal favorite.
Kamae: Haven for sport fishermen.
Chyojabaru and Kokonoe: beautiful mountain meadows offering spetacular views, hiking and horseback riding. Sliding down the Ryumon waterfall is great fun.
Nagayu: Home to beautiful onsen, including the second most carbonated hot spring in the world. Staying at the Daimaru Ryokan is a treat.Hita: Mameda is a well preserved merchant quarter. The Kuncho sake brewery holds concerts and is a nice visit. For lunch Senya's Hita Mabushi alone is worth the trip. Finish up with a trip to the Wiskey museum and the Sapporo beer factory for a tasting.
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