Yufuin Onsen: hot springs cradled in Mount Yufu-dake amid the beauty of nature
Yufu-dake in northeastern Oita Prefecture has been revered as a divine mountain from time immemorial, appearing in the oldest surviving poetry collection, Manyoshu. At the foot of the famous peak is Yufuin Onsen, a hot spring village boasting the second greatest flow of hot spring waters in Japan, and the second largest number of hot spring sources nationwide. Ancient and unique ryokan inns are scattered throughout the mountainous countryside, drawing people young and old alike.
Most of the springs are so-called “simple hot springs” or “alkaline simple hot springs.” Such springs are gentle to the skin so even lengthy baths are not tiring, allowing a more leisurely time ideal for watching the scenery change moment to moment, especially dramatic when Mount Yufu-dake is dyed red by the setting sun. In addition, alkaline simple hot springs are renowned for exfoliative (removing dead skin cells) and moisturizing power.
Yufuin Onsen has a number of drop-in baths, all accessible for about 200 to 700 yen, with a wide variety of types, from old, shared baths loved by locals to those in the open-air where the majesty of Mount Yufu-dake rises before your eyes. Finding your favorite hot spring is one of the real pleasures of a hot spring trip.
No trip to Yufuin is complete without a visit to Lake Kinrin. The name, meaning “Gold Scales Lake,” is said to have come in the Meiji era (1868-1912) from the Confucian scholar Mori Kuso, who was inspired seeing fish swimming in the lake, their scales glinting golden in the setting sun. As hot spring water gushes continuously, keeping the water temperature high throughout the year, a graceful, otherworldly mist rises from the lake surface in the chill of early winter mornings. Depending on the weather, the best time to view this vision is around 8 am. Shall we get up a little early and take a look?
Started as a way to support reconstruction efforts in Oita Prefecture following the 1975 earthquake, the Sightseeing Horse-drawn Carriage has become a famous tourist attraction of Yufuin ever since. The roughly 60-minute course begins in front of JR Yufuin Station, passes through Bussanji Temple and Unaguhime-jinja Shrine before returning to the station. The gentle sway of the carriage is a great way to tour the town. (Reservations required)
Even among the abundance of hot spring areas in Oita Prefecture, Yufuin Onsen boasts a particularly large outpouring of steaming spring water. With Mount Yufu-dake rising amid the expansive pastoral scenery and the morning mist rising from the lovely hot spring land, it is an idyllic locale to relax and enjoy onsen in the arms of Mother Nature.
Haneda Airport -> 100 min by air -> Oita Airport -> 60 min by expressway bus -> Yufuin Sta.
Yufuin Onsen Kanko Kyokai (Tourism Association)
*The information herein is as of April 2021.