Among the hotspring town of Kyushu, Beppu is certainly the most famous, but Yufuin is a quite and more relaxing alternative, loved mainly by Japanese women.
If you are looking for a quiet city, where relax body and mind far away from the busy life and the lights of the city, Yufuin is a perfect option. Surrounded by mountains, with a small mysterious lake and many onsen with outdoor pools is a recommended destination to recharge your energy.
In addition to these characteristics, Yufuin is particularly popular with the female audience for its pretty retro-looking downtown, horse carriages that accompany tourists around the city and the charming Yufuin Floral Village: a mix between a fairytale village and a village of the Costwold.
Yufuin is the second largest city in Japan (following Beppu) as number of hotsprings and immediately out of the station you can try free thermal fountains, ideal for warming your hands on cold mornings.
Many tourists visit Yufuin in a daytrip from Beppu, but my advice is to overnight here, in one of the many ryokan and minshuku, many of which have also private onsen. You’re not only try the experience of stay in Ryokan, but also you can have a peaceful walk through the silent streets, ending the day soak in a warm onsen contrasting with the cool night breeze or experience the magic of Lake Kinrinko at dawn.
Yufuin, onsen and mistery
You’ll get to Yufuin through the bursting nature of Kyushu and already your mind begins a free wander among these green hills…. the light mist rising from Lake Kinrinko and settles gently on the temple that looks gives an aura of mystery, protected by Mount Yufu over it. And while strolling through the streets of this city, you get into a colorful village, made up of English houses, pretty little corners and the Kiki Bakeri shop.
There are many local craft shops and quality food, but also tourist souvenir shops are in harmony with the atmosphere of the city. You can just walk around or also rent bikes for less than 1000yen for day or take a ride on horse-drawn carriages.
Yufuin is totally different from the near Beppu, full of resorts, hotels, restaurants and amusement…is more connected to the nature and nighttime became very silent and mysterious….
Yufuin Floral Village
The Yufuin Floral Village is a small village in the village, an enchanted place out of time.
A Miyazaki movie set in the Costwold. An enchanted fairytale.
Othervise the atmosphere looks so cute, is actually only souvenir shops and merchandising related to the most disparate themes, theme shops and even a garden with animals and owls (entrance fee required). There are also theme cafés and restaurants, and even if you don’t want to fill the bags of trinkets of Hello Kitty or Alice in Wonderland, you will surely be fascinated by the atmosphere of the Yufuin Floral Village. And if you are a fan of Studio Ghibli, you cannot miss a visit to the Kiki Bakery Store!
At the opposite side of Yufuin from the station, there is the small and mysterious Kinrinko lake, often covered by a thiny fog that intensifies especially at dawn, making the atmosphere even more suggestive.
On the banks of the lake there are some cafes and restaurants and some onsen, although most don’t accept tourists. A small temple overlooks the lake, and its torii in the water only adds to the charm of this stretch of water at the foot of Mount Yufu.
Right here is also the Besso Ryokan, considered one of the most exclusive and expensive ryokan in Japan.
Art and Shopping
Yufuin is also particularly loved for craft shops, local products and particularly nice souvenirs that dot the main street. Resisting the temptation to buy everything is not easy, not only because the products on sale are so cute, but also because the presentation is truly impeccable! Many shops follow a specific theme or recreate a particular and delicate atmosphere, which invites you to buy, but without forcing to do it. Look around, take all the time you want to admire those cute little shops, rummage through the shelves and let yourself be surrounded by the warmth that shop gives you.
The shops of Yufuin are kind of art, perhaps because they are influenced by the many small art museums in Yufuin, likethe one dedicated to Marc Chagall, on the second floor in a cafe near the lake Kinrinko
If you are a Art-lover, Yufuin will be delighted you with many hidden treasures, scattered here and there, and you will feel that its center is itself part of a vernissage that hosts various installations.
Caffe Duo Latte Art
Not only shops and museums, but also many cafes and restaurants have a unique atmosphere, with special details and rich in delicate charm. A stop not to be missed is the Café Duo, where you can have Latte Art on your cappuccino! Not just drawings on the foam, but real 3D creations, you want to miss an opportunity like that? The price is in line with the other cafes, 600-900yen depending on the drink chosen.
Onsen and Ryokan
Although the thing that struck me most about Yufuin is its dreamy atmosphere, this Kyushu town is famous above all for being one of the most loved Japanese hotspring towns, thanks to its many natural hotspring, many of them outdoors with a great view on the surrounding mountains.
There are many ryokan in the area, many of which allow access to the pool to visitors during the day, while in the evening are reserved only for those who overnight there. The daily admission usually costs between 700 and 1000 yen, but beware that the towel is often not rented (you must bring your own or buy it at the time).
Among the most famous hotspring in Yufuin there is certainly the Musouen, with its beautiful and large outdoor pool overlooking the Mount Yufu, then point out also the Sansuikan very convenient and close to the station. The Tsuka-no-ma is a little far away (reachable by local bus), but is interesting for the blue color that its waters naturally take. The Shitanyu instead is a very basic sento (public bath) on the shores of the lake. Why do I mention it? Because the tanks are not separated by sex…… would you have the courage to enter?
Overnight in ryokan or minshuku, in addition to soaking in the onsen of the structure (basically all have them, maybe small and simple, but there are), you can experience sleeping in futon on the tatami and enjoy typical dinner and breakfast. The choice is very wide, I had been recommended Yufuin Iyotomi and Ryokan Tatsumi for the excellent quality/price, but unfortunately I waited too long to book and I had to fall back on the family-owned Minshuku Sanso Tsurunoyu.
How to get there
Yufuin is surrounded by mountains, but reaching it is quite simple, whether you start from Beppu, Oita or Fukuoka.
Yufuin-no-Mori from Fukuoka/Hakata
If you have the Japan Rail Pass, the best way to visit Yufuin and enter in the magical mood of this hotspring town is take the special Yufuin-no-mori train from Fukuoka.
This luxurious train takes almost two and a half hours (6760 yen covered by the pass) but will give you a wonderful experience not only for amazing landscape, but also for the experience of the train itself.
This is a particular luxury bullet train, with wooden interiors and green carpet that recall the environment that you are going to cross along the way. On board there is also a lounge with large panoramic windows where you can admire the beautiful mountain scenery of Kyushu, including waterfalls!
Be careful, the Yufuin-no-Mori train on the Fukuoka-Yufuin route is very popular, remember to book your tickets in advance.
Buses run approximately every hour from the bus station in Beppu from early morning to early afternoon, cost 1000 yen and travel time around 45 minutes.
At 13.13, 14.14 and 18.09 also the Yufuin-no-mori leaves, which takes about an hour to reach its destination and costs 2450 yen.
Also from Oita it is possible to take the Yufuin-no-Mori which reaches the destination in 50 minutes for 2080yen (more trips, the first in the late morning). The cheapest alternative instead is the local train which takes about 70 minutes and costs 940 yen.