For the farest I remember, I always loved Kyushu. When I received my first guide book about Japan at 15, I was fascinated by this island which has a great nature, rich culture and history and delicious looking food. Several years later I traveled there for the first time and it was an instant love. Now,I'm lucky and proud to be able to live in Fukuoka for several years and seeing clearly my future here.
Since late 2015, I made the choice to travel once a month somewhere in Kyushu and it started by a Kumamoto trip in New Year. For the first time 2 years I went to Kumamoto castle, Suizen-ji garden and mount Aso. I was so happy to be discover again the places I loved and I made great memories.
As a Kyushu lover,I was deeply moved by the tragic earthquakes which occured in april of this year. Of course we felt it strongly in Fukuoka and I first I could only think about telling what I felt on my blog but soon after I was shocked by the images on TV about places I visited only few weeks ago ! The only thing I could do was praying for the victims and their families.
If I went several times to Oita since the earthquakes, I didn't have the chance to go back to Kumamoto yet. As there was a 3 days weekend in October, I took this chance to make a trip there. Good news, it was also my birthday too so what a great opportunity to spend two days relaxing in Kurokawa onsen.
It isn’t possible to reach Kurokawa Onsen otherwise than by road. We took a direct bus from Fukuoka, connecting to the small village in 2:50. Nowdays it takes a little longer because of the Kyushu earthquakes some roads are still closed and the bus makes a detour through the Oita’s countryside. It adds about 30 minutes to the journey but the road is rather nice because it follows a river and a railroad crossing small villages.
After checking-in at our ryokan (Japanese Inn), we changed to yukata, grabbed the special onsen bag prepared expressly for us (with towels, hair brush, tooth brush, shower cap and razor) and went towards the tourist office to purchase a nyuto tegata.
This wooden board is essential for those who want to try onsen hopping . For 1300 yens (700 yens for children), the tegata allows access to 3 of the 24 participating onsens. On the back of each plate there are 3 stickers. When visiting a hot spring, present the tegata at the entrance, the staff will remove one of the stickers and stamp your board. The tegata is valid for 6 months and a worthwhile investment when you consider that the entry for each onsen costs an average of 500 yen. At the end of the stay you can either leave it to Kurokawa shrine or bring it back home as a souvenir.
I should point out that onsen hopping is possible only from 8:30am to 9pm. Before and after, the baths are reserved to the ryokan clients.
Autumn has arrived suddenly in Kyushu. Despite bright sunshine, it was quite chilling in Kurokawa and trees even began to change color. It was the ideal weather to enjoy an onsen dip.
But we were quite hungry so we decided to eat first and we went to try some of Kurokawa onsen best foods !
First we ate dago-jiru which is a miso soup with a lot of vegetables and dough made with floor and water. It was served with chicken rice and both of the dish were tasty and it warmed us up.
As a dessert, we ate a very cute and sweet parfait made of ice cream, fruits, red beans paste, rice dumplings and coffee jelly.
Our first choice was Kono-yu, located a little back north of the village. We had spotted in a magazine a rather special onsen that we wanted to try: tachi-yu. The baths in Japan are generally deep enough to be immersed up to chest or shoulders but the depth of tachi-yu is 1m32 (women bath) and 1m62 (men bath)!
It was my first time at a real onsen so I made sure I did everything properly : totally undress, take a shower, wash and tie my hair up before entering the baths.
What I loved about bathing outside was that my body was warmed up with the hot water while my face was feeling the refreshing wind. I spent at least 30 minutes inside. I tried the outdoor bath (rotenburo) too, also very nice but I loved tachi-yu the most, it was so unique !
When we got out we still had enough time for one extra bath before dinner. We chose an onsen in the center of the village: the Yamanoya Shinmeikan. This time the peculiarity of the baths is that they are … in caves! It is indeed quite original, but I didn’t liked it so much because it feeled like a sauna although the temperature was a little more bearable. But it was a great experience and I'm glad I went.
Back to the ryokan, it was time for dinner !
The sumptuous course offered a variety of dishes such as Kumamoto specialties like karashi daikon (mustard filled lotus rhizome) or basashi, horse meat sashimi.
This dish was a real discovery: the meat melts in the mouth and it is not strong in taste, it was a real delight.
The next day, after a calm night inside confortable futons, we ate breakfast and spend our morning enjoying our ryokan baths before the check out.
There was two outdoor baths, two indoors ones (both separeted genders), a mixed bath, a sauna for men, one for women (opened only on demand) and two private baths. At the entrance there was also an ashi-yu, an hot spring for foot. I really liked all of the baths, especially the outdoor one. It was peaceful and the water temperature was perfect (around 45 degres celcius).
I really enjoyed walking around Kurokawa onsen wearing yukata and try onsens here and there. The village is really charming with wooden buildings,small shrines, nice and cheerful inhabitant and tasty food.
I can't wait to go again. I have one sticker left on my nyuto tegata so it's the perfect excuse to go as soon as possible. I hope you'll have the chance to visit Kurokawa onsen too. Just remember to reserve the earliest as possible, as it's a quite popular place. They have a very helpful English website with a lot of informations : https://www.kurokawaonsen.or.jp/eng_new/
Also,I want to say a last thing to everyone : Kumamoto is safe ! Kyushu is safe !
Please visit our island, you will make the greatest memories.
※Blog : www.benefukuoka.com (French, Japanese and English)
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