The title was meant to be Yufuin, Kurokawa Onsen and Aso. Obviously, the Aso part didn’t happen. Read on to find out more.
There are practically only two attractions in Yufuin – Kinrin-ko lake (pictured above) and Yunotsubo Kaido, the food/shopping street. OK, my son kept begging for me to let him take a horse cart ride, which he saw on a tourist map, so that might count as a third plausible attraction.
I set the GPS location to a car park next to the restaurant where I had intended to have lunch, since our expected arrival time at Yufuin was a little past lunch time. The place was packed. I also found out that they did not accept a credit card for payment. This was important, because we underestimated the cash needed for the trip, and i didn’t bring my ATM card along. So here’s an important tip for travelling in Kyushu – Tip #1 Bring LOTS of cash. Only the more upscale restaurants accept credit card, so dining at these restaurants became our strategy for conserving cash, and it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. In particular, our lunch in Yufuin was upgraded to a fine dining experience that was totally worth the price.
I was so glad i had my lunch here, and little did i know that the breakfast for the next morning, which i had planned for in my itinerary, was the cafe upstairs – Tenjosajiki.
After lunch, we moved on to strolling Yunotsubo Kaido, where the main thing you’ll be doing is snacking! There are quite a few snacks that are worth the calories, one of which that gets unanimous endorsement is Kinsho croquettes. The other one which has pretty good reviews is Hanakouji Kikuya. We also came across Milch and could resist trying the cheesecake (basically pure cream chesse).
I’ve had to change my dinner plan, as the restaurant i originally wanted to go to doesn’t accept credit card. The restaurant where i eventually had dinner is nothing to write home about, but i was able to try beef tongue here, which i won’t need to try again ever.
Yufuin isn’t cheap when it comes to accommodation, so i chose to stay in a Minshuku some ten minutes drive away. The trade-off staying in one is having to put up with the inconvenience of not having an ensuite bathroom, but i was pleasantly surprised that there was a natural hotspring bath available! And so this became our maiden Onsen experience, a private bath in a private home, no less. I infer that many homes around the Oita region get to enjoy the luxury of owning a private Onsen.
As planned, the next morning, we had breakfast at Tenjosajiki. No credit card accepted here.
Kurokawa Onsen is just a short drive from Yufuin. The plan was to have Onsen completely struck off my bucket list. This Onsen town offers an Onsen hopping pass that allows you to try 3 different Onsens at a discounted price. I was initially worried about what to do with the kids while we the adults have a go at the Onsen, and i had in mind taking turns to do so. The Japanese showed us how they do it – they bring their kids (even babies) along!
To conserve cash, I chose to do lunch at Sumiyoshi Shokudo, a family run “canteen” that offers Japanese staples. Other than churning out dishes that are a tad salty (and therefore tasty), it did the job admirably.
Here’s an important tip i want you to know about Kurokawa Onsen – Tip #2 All the Onsen Ryokans are accessible by car. There are not many travelogues or forum postings about Kurokawa Onsen, and of those available, i don’t recall any of them mentioning about getting to Kurokawa Onsen by car (bus is the only other way). To get around, they had to walk! I therefore had the wrong impression that walking was the only way. Driving made things SO much easier, especially when having to bring kids around.
Again, not a lot of information about which Onsen is the best and very difficult to narrow down the choices, but of the little information available, Yamamizuki stood out. There is a nice view of two streams converging to form a waterfall from the pool. No photo to show since photography isn’t allowed for obvious reasons. Next we went to Hozantei, probably the Onsen that is the furthest away. It also had a view of a stream (pretty much all the Onsens have some kind of view of a stream or river), but was much less impressive than Yamamizuki. Nevertheless, since it was so far away, and this was the low season, we (each) had the pools to ourselves! I was able to snap a photo of this pool since there was no one else around.
While soaking in the pool, i saw three ducks waddling their way upstream. Later i found out that they were resident ducks of the Ryokan. I must say, this was an ingenious way to entertain guests!
Heavy rain ruined my sightseeing plans the next day, but thankfully the main objective for the day was simply to get to Kirishima, where I was going to catch a flight to Yakushima the following morning. When I got to Daikanbo, the visibility was probably no more than a few kilometres.
I scrapped the plan to visit Shirakawa Suigen and adjusted the GPS to head to Kirishima, but then i felt i had to at least see one more attraction for the day. I decided to head to Mount Aso, the most prominent volcano in Kyushu, thinking that I could at least see the foot of the mountain. This was when things started to turn interesting. The GPS led me to make a turn, and then I saw something startling.
I had second thoughts and decided against going to Mount Aso. I’m not sure why, but thereafter, the GPS kept leading me to the hardest hit areas of the recent earthquake around Kumamoto. There was one particular road that had someone stationed there to block entry. I’m guessing that the road is normally open for access, but due to the danger of landslide from the heavy rain, it had to be closed. Anyway, this was the first time I saw, first hand, the devastation wreaked by an earthquake, and I suppose this would count as an “attraction”. It was eye opening indeed. I truly admire the attention to details of the Japanese in ensuring the safety of the public.
I had to study the map to override the directions given by the GPS navigation. After driving over a mountain pass, probably the only one that was open for access, I was on my way to Kirishima. My earlier than expected arrival meant i had a chance to visit Kagoshima, the largest city in southern Kyushu. This could be one of the few places in the world that regularly experiences volcanic ash spew, from the neighbouring Sakurajima volcano. In fact, the TV weather forecast includes a section forecasting ash fall.
We walked around the Tenmonkan shopping district before dinner. Yakitori seems to be popular in Kagoshima, and we have never tried Yakitori in Japan up till now, so it’s now or never. The restaurant i had initially selected via tabelog didn’t accept credit card for payment even though tabelog said it did, so we opted for the restaurant just 2 doors away, Toritetsu. It was OK (we actually enjoyed the non-Yakitori items more). Given the little time i had for research, it was difficult to find a really good place for dinner. The area around Tenmonkan is full of eateries, by the way.