Beppu may be the mecca of onsen towns but don’t neglect its attractive younger sibling Yufuin if you want to get away from the crowds and off the beaten track. For an authentic small town onsen experience that is both stylish and comfortable, Yufuin is well worth the trip.
In the heart of Oita prefecture, just half an hour’s drive from Beppu, Yufuin is nestled in the mountains and located at the base of Mt Yufu, an active volcano which is 1,583m at its highest point and affectionately referred to as the Mr Fuji of Oita by locals. The main difference between Yufu and Fuji is that Yufu has two peaks instead of one. These peaks are almost exactly the same height and have the appearance of a camel’s back. The geography of the area is what has given Yufuin its beautiful scenery, with the centrepiece undoubtedly being Lake Kinrinko. Scenic walking paths surround the lake and the charming Tenso Shrine is located at the southern end. One of the shrine gates rises out of Lake Kinrinko itself a la Hiroshima’s famous Itsukushima, offering photo opportunities that rival the iconic shrine.
Near the base of Mt Yufu, Yufuin hot springs are located, a major draw to the town. For decades this onsen has been one of the most famous in Japan, with some baths offering a view of Lake Kinrinko or Mt Yufu. Like the springs in Beppu, Yufuin’s onsen are on the warm side with temperatures of 40C+. The waters are said to help with neuralgia, arthritis and fatigue; though of course scientific research supporting the first two claims is lacking, many happy visitors to Yufuin testify to the third.
Perhaps surprisingly, this hideaway onsen town is also a fashionable shopping spot. There are lots of cute branded snacks to be found about town including Snoopy themed ice cream at Snoopy Tea House and baked goods at a Kiki’s Delivery Service themed bakery. Head to covered shopping area Yorozuya for a more traditional shopping experience, with goods such as tea sets and handmade Japanese pottery. If Japanese traditional crafts are your thing definitely don’t miss Kyushu Yufuin Mingei Mura, Yufuin’s traditional folk village. Here you can try your hand at making washi (Japanese paper) and dyeing indigo. You can watch master craftsmen and craftswomen at work practicing traditional techniques of glass blowing, pottery and other traditional Japanese crafts and purchase their unique products afterwards.
Yufuin’s charm was acknowledged in 1976 when film lovers from Oita and beyond flocked to the town to put on screenings and celebrate film. Today, Yufuin Film Festival is the oldest of its kind in Japan holding screenings, symposiums and parties every year in August. With both natural and cultural draws as well as fashionable shops, Yufuin is not a town to miss!
- Oita Pref. Yufushi Yufuinchoukawakami 1524-1
NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR