Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Yufuin is a Japanese resort town with a capital "R." Nestled in the mountains of eastern Kyushu, Yufuin's economy seems to be entirely built around the onsen (hot springs) which flow in abundance up from the ground, through networks of pipes, and into countless inns, hotels, and public baths.

A while back I wrote about another onsen town: Gero. The difference between the two seems to me as clear as a mountain spring. Whereas Gero is well known to Japanese lovers of onsen, Yufuin (while also famous) seems to cater to the foreign crowd. That's not suprising, as Kyushu is very close to Korea. And you'll likely hear as much Korean in the streets as Japanese, as visitors from the neighboring country pump cash into the economy.

One major advantage of Yufuin is the availability of inns that let you rent private onsen rooms by the hour at reasonable rates. Personally, I prefer this type of setup over public baths.

Let's take a stroll through Yufuin and check out some of the sights and attractions.
Hot springs are literally everywhere. This is a free foot soaking spring behind a souvenir/ice cream store. It's quite nice taking in a mixed blueberry/vanilla cone while your legs turn red in the steaming waters.
The springs are so abundant that some shops use the water for display fountains!
Yufuin's orientation
The red line on the map marks the main sightseeing stretch, which goes from Yufuin station to Lake Kinrinko.
Fear not for your safety, as there is a Self-Defense Force garrison nearby! I spotted some soldiers in a supermarket. They were very friendly.
Most people walk the 20 minutes from the station to the lake, but others prefer to be man hauled.
Shopping and eating...

There are plenty of shops, cafes, and restaurants in the town.
More after the man jump:

Some of the nice things you can buy, though note that some of the town's goods and crafts are imported or from other parts of Japan.
Some shops are a tad kitchy, which is par for the course for towns catering to tourists.
But fear not. Momo is on watch keeping it legit.

We even found a vegetarian restaurant.

 Some snacks and food stalls:


Yufuin design
I was impressed by the town's architecture and attention to interior design.

Even the local pachinko parlor has a snazzy retro feel.

As you're walking through the town, there's plenty of nice scenery all around.
The sign warns one to be vigilant about jumping!
Toy culture....
Yufuin has a very strong toy culture presence, including cartoon, anime, and other characters from around the world.

Of course you've got plenty of gacha machines...

...including some interesting varieties.

Lots of shops have character statue displays, like this trio in front of a showa style candy shop.

Despite the US mascots welcoming customers, just about everything inside is Japanese.

Ultra Qewl
Black and white Astro Boy playing on a vintage TV. Nice.
This big Godzilla statue was standing in front of a liquor store.
Monchichi shop!

Totoro shop

One of the most interesting places we saw. This shop sells paper toys made by Hacomo  a Japanese company. The name is a portmanteau of "happy" and "communication."

Tokyo's famous Yamanote line!
Yufuin also has an abundance of museums, a trait it shares with Hakone, a mountain resort area near Mt. Fuji.

Stained glass museum
 Hot springs...
Onsen are the town's main attraction.
There are many small inns like this which have hot springs. Some of the baths are public - usually gender separated, though some are mixed. Other baths are private, and you can use them by the hour.

This is a type of private bath room. Not quite my style, as it looks completely closed off.
Ah, the fish spas. I've never tried this sort of thing, but I think the fish eat little bits of dead skin or just swarm around as they tickle your feet.

This is much more my style: private outdoor baths, surrounded by high walls for your privacy. This private bath costs 2,000 yen for one hour, plus 200 to rent a large towel if you haven't got your own.

Pipe structure bringing in the springs.
Lake Kinrinko
At the tip of the main walking route is this nice little lake.

You can enjoy a coffee and snacks as you take in the sights.

But this is what you're likely to see.

They come in waves.
 Off the beaten path...
To get to and from the station, you can make your way through the crowds. (I imagine it must get very busy during high season.)
Or you can take the backstreets and enjoy the less beaten path. That's what we opted for on the way back. The following shots are some of what we saw along the way.
Bridge construction

Maybe an inn or bath from decades past

Very friendly feline

Tenso Shrine

Bussanji Temple

St. Robert Church. A sign outside says there's a 1,000 yen admission price.

The countryside around Yufuin is dotted with small farms, many of which are partially or mostly fallow, maybe because it's late February.

Mount Yufu overlooks the town.
There are direction posts here and there. This one even shows you where to find Grandma - on the right hand side. Isn't that a song from the 80s?

Nice little coffee shop with a rustic feel. Wish we had had more time to pop in for a coffee and cake.

I can't be the only one who sees these little construction vehicles and wants to jump in for a spin!

Hello. You are in Yufuin.
 Getting to and from Yufuin (from Fukuoka)
There are a couple of main ways to get to the town. One is by bus. A bus ride from Fukuoka (Kyushu's main city) takes around 2 1/3 hours and costs 2500 yen each way. (You might be able to get a discount if you buy a round trip ticket.) There's lots of nice scenery along the way.

There are also regular trains. This one goes directly to and from Fukuoka. It's called the Yufuin No Mori train. The cost is 4200 yen each way, and it also takes around 2 1/3 hours.

Little food car
And that's a look at Yufuin, which makes an easy day trip from Fukuoka or other nearby cities. I found the hot springs nice and relaxing - not too hot, and good for a short soak. If you're going to be in Kyushu for a few days, I'd say Yufuin is worth a visit, though it might be nice to balance a walk down the well-trodden path with some time on the back roads.
I hope you enjoyed the tour. Click here to check out more of my travelogs and posts about touring in Japan.

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