Konnichiwa (hello) from Kyushu Island – Japan’s steamy hot spring island.
Blend culture, cuisine, and a curiosity for new experiences, and the country’s southernmost island is set to top many a traveller’s wish list.
Things to do in Kyushu
Ride the luxurious Yufuin no Mori train from Hakata City, Fukuoka Prefecture, into Yufuin. The wooden carriages wink at a bygone era. Laidback Yufuin town, cradled by Aso-Kuju National Park, offers visitors a window into rural life. Cobbled laneways lead to shrines, temples and cosy cafes. Lake Kinrin, Yufuin’s postcard centrepiece, has a rare mix of both hot springs and fresh water. In the mornings, a magical mist dusts the landscape, the perfect antidote to city stresses.
Oita Prefecture’s famous hot spring city, Beppu, puffs away like a witch’s cauldron. Volcanically heated springs – christened ‘blood pond hell’, ‘white pond hell’, and ‘cooking pot hell’ among other ‘hells’ – have bubbled for centuries, creating an area dubbed Hells of Beppu. The springs are too hot for bathing – but local restaurants use them to steam food in vats heated from underground. Called Jigoku mushi (hell steamed), it’s a must try.
Visit Kurokawa Onsen
Kurokawa Onsen (hot spring) town has more public baths than you can shake your bathers at. But you won’t be needing those. You can immerse yourself in 39°C mineral-infused water wearing nothing at all; nothing feels more natural. Japanese folk regularly bare all to slip into therapeutic baths – men to one side, women another – to treat their ailments. The minerals work naturally, soothing mind and muscles.
Where to stay in Kyushu
KAI Yufuin has been created with the wisdom of Zen in mind. Mt Yufu towers as a backdrop to rolling rice terraces. Each guest room in the ryokan (Japanese-style inn) is designed to blend with nature. The tatami mats are made from shichitoui grass, and suites facing a sawtooth oak forest have private outdoor hot-spring baths.
Must-try foods in Kyushu
- Sumibi-yaki: Charcoal-grilled chicken cooked with pepper and garlic.
- Sashimi: Tender, thinly sliced raw fish or meat dipped in soy sauce.
- Shojin ryori: Traditional Buddhist vegetarian dishes.