The hot-spring mountain town of Yufuin in Japan’s south is a must-see destination for nature lovers. Fotini Dangiris pays a relaxing visit.
In Japan, locals say if you want to experience slices of Japan’s offerings, Kyushu, the country’s southern-most island, can provide it all.
At the end of a hot and humid summer in the capital, Fukuoka, I was in desperate need of some natural healing. So, once autumn’s relief set in, I headed towards cooler, greener pastures. Yufuin, an inland mountain village about an hour from the island’s north-east coast, was my ideal choice.
Located in the Oita district, Yufuin is 25 kilometres inland from coastal hot-spring town, Beppu. With a population of just over 11, 000, Yufuin ranks as one of the top three hot-spring towns in the whole of Japan. Visitors of all ages – approximately two million tourists per year – enjoy Yufuin’s natural offerings. This combined tourism and onsen (hotspring spa) trade results in the village’s healthy economic status.
Small and quaint, Yufuin is without the huge crowds of its famous coastal cousin, Beppu. Still, even with trappings of Japanese commercialism, Yufuin enchants you. Plus, autumn is the season to be charmed by the village’s magical embrace.
Highlighting the region’s natural feature Yufu-dake (Mount Yufu), many types of accommodation surround the mountain’s slopes. This provides visitors with not only breath-taking views, but easy access to mountain walks, onsen houses, museums, art galleries, and Yufuin Town.
Visitors enjoy everything the town has to offer. During my visit, the town is bathed in autumnal beauty. Its visual feast includes a narrow street dotted with trees showing off their red, orange, and yellow leaves, while Mount Yufu provides a 1584 metre solid backdrop.
I notice an abandoned rickshaw parked on the side of the road over-looking Yufuin’s Oita-gawa River. The driver’s cone-shaped hat hangs at the back of the vehicle. I wonder the whereabouts of the driver on this busy Sunday. Was he on a break? Or, was he, like us, also succumbed by Yufuin’s charm?
Yufuin welcomes you to discover your own delight. The town’s tradespeople busily hawk their wares to passers-by, and it seems, as always in Japan, an act of invitation. Smells of ramen noodles from noodle-houses and freshly-baked bread from cosy corner bakeries entice passers-by to interrupt their leisurely stroll through town. Who could resist freshly-made beanpaste pastries, cream buns, and green tea cake?
Exiting one craft shop we notice a domestic tap just outside its entry. My friends, Yuki and Ayako, and I happily wash our hands in the hot-spring water gushing out into a wooden bucket; steam emanating fast into the cold, autumn air. Wanting more, we stumble upon a tiny onsen hut in a hidden alleyway, and, after a quick thought, agree that a six-person footbath is a little too cosy for our liking. Deciding not to join in, we move on.
During the drive home, the island’s freeway offered a different view of the region’s autumnal splendour. In the late afternoon sun, Kyushu’s countryside looks more beautiful as red, orange, and yellow-leafed trees seem that much brighter. Hidden in the mountainsides, more natural beauty includes fast rapids, and gushing waterfalls. Mesmerised, we take it all in. One wonders what’s beyond Paradise.
Further on, I see lonely theatres of two-storey houses throughout alternate towns. And, fresh from being under Yufuin’s charm, I think to myself, that someone, somewhere, is missing out on something.
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