Kurokawa Onsen Village: Onsen Hopping and Overnight Stay

Kurokawa Onsen Village

Kurokawa Onsen village is a quiet place nestled in the mountains of Kumamoto, Kyushu. The hot spring village is in Minamioguni, far from the highway making it a special place to retreat into nature.

Year-round, you can soak in the outdoor baths, some of which are situated next to a beautiful flowing river and trees.

The piping hot water that reaches 176 degrees Fahrenheit (80°C) is enough to warm the body even on the coldest of winter days.


In the spring and fall, surrounding nature trails burst with fresh greenery and the chirping of wild birds.


Sound like a good place to you? Keep reading to learn how to make the most of your trip to Kurokawa Onsen!

This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you purchase through my links, at no extra cost to you. Please read full disclosure for more information.

How to Get to Kurokawa Onsen

Since Kurokawa Onsen Village is located in a semi-remote area, it can be a bit difficult to access if you don’t have a car.

For those without a car coming from central Fukuoka, the Kyushu Bus from Hakata Station will be your best option.

There are only a few buses that run each day so you’ll want to book your seats early. Seats can be booked up to one month in advance from the Kyushu Bus website. 

By bus, the ride from Fukuoka is about three hours. It’s a bit of a long trip, but there is wonderful scenery to enjoy along the way. (The bus also has free wifi which is convenient!)

By car, the drive from Hakata is around 2-3 hours depending on which route you take.

On the way to Kurokawa Onsen is another small onsen area called Tsuetate Onsen. From late March to May, this area has a stunning festival where hundreds of colorful carp streamers decorate the sky above the river. If you have the time, you can add this place to your trip.

Koinobori Festival in Tsuetate Onsen

It’s a charming sight to see all of the rainbow fish swimming in the wind. Read more about Tsuetate Onsen and the Children’s Day festival here!

Onsen Hopping – 湯めぐり

If you’re heading to Kurokawa Onsen, you’re most likely going to want to take part in the area’s popular onsen hopping called “Yumeguri” (湯めぐり).

With a little wooden pass, you can visit three different hot springs, receiving a stamp at each place you visit.

The wooden pass is treated as the area’s “local currency”. Use it to visit three baths or redeem one visit for a snack or souvenir at a participating store instead.

The wooden pass is called nyuyoku tegata (入浴手形) and can be purchased from the Kurokawa Onsen Tourist Center or directly from the ryokans. It costs 1,300 yen for an adult, 700 yen for a child, and is good for 6 months from the date of purchase.

If you are staying overnight or are just a big onsen fan, it is totally doable to use it all in one go.

After visiting three places, your wooden pass will be decorated with colorful stamps. Keep this pass as a memento of your trip (mine is now a coaster in my room!) or dedicate it to the Jizodo Temple in the center of the village.

A cool thing about purchasing this hot spring pass is that 1% of the sales go back into natural resource conservation activities in the area!

Hang your pass around your neck and get ready to explore the onsens of Kurokawa!

Onsens to Visit in Kurokawa

Kurokawa Onsen Village embodies the saying, “Kurokawa Ichi Ryokan”,  meaning that all the ryokans and surrounding woodland work together as if a single ryokan. 

There are almost 30 different ryokans in the village so you have a lot of options to choose from when it comes to onsen hopping. In addition to standard, gender-separated outdoor onsens, there are other unique types like cave onsens, mixed gender onsens, cold baths, saunas, and standing onsens.


The Kurokawa Official Website lists all the ryokans in the area and their bathing amenities. With so many choices, it can be a bit overwhelming. (I had to make a spreadsheet to plan out exactly where to visit during my stay.) Read more about the onsens I visited below!

Tip: While picking up your onsen pass at the Tourist Center, check to see if any onsens are closed as sometimes the schedules can change on the day of.

Ryokan Okunoyu

Ryokan Okunoyu is located about a 10-minute walk from the center of the village. Its unique point is that it has mixed-gender baths meaning that both genders bathe together. This is a good choice for couples who want to enjoy the onsen experience together, however, it can be a little uncomfortable for those who have never been in a mixed bath before.

There are three mixed baths at Ryokan Okunoyu: a large outdoor one, one in a little cave, and another small one that overlooks the river.

The small bath by the river was my favorite as you could see the water flow while soaking. It was so peaceful!

For those who are more comfortable with traditional onsens, there are separated gender baths as well – one indoor and one outdoor. (These separated-gender baths are smaller and don’t have as great views as the mixed baths).

The small “cave” onsen at Ryokan Okunoyu wasn’t particularly impressive. The ryokan called Shinmeikan looks to have a larger cave bath so that one might be worth checking out for those who want a cave experience.

To the side of the ryokan is a space full of greenery that overlooks the water.


Tip: If you have your own towel, don’t forget to pack it! Otherwise, you can buy a towel for 100 yen.

Ryokan Ikoi

Located five minutes from the Tourist Center, Ryokan Ikoi features a unique standing bath for women and multiple baths for men including a cold bath and a sauna.

The standing bath was one of my favorite baths during the entire Kurokawa Trip! Two bamboo poles hang in the center of the water that can be used to prop yourself up.

With the water up to my clavicle and my arms draped around the bamboo, I felt like a gymnast on parallel bars. It was such a strange sensation to be able to stand in the bath as most baths are only deep enough for sitting.

One thing to note is that the standing onsen is that it is really only good for one person at a time. Try to visit when it is not busy for the most enjoyable time.

Other than the standing bath, there is another outdoor onsen for women. (Not as cool as the standing bath though!)

The water at Ikoi Ryokan was SUPER hot, 80 degrees Celsius or 176F. It definitely burned a bit when entering, but soon my body acclimated.

Make sure to visit Ikoi Ryokan if you want to experience a standing bath (for women only).

It is written that Ryokan Konoyu also has a standing bath (for men only).

Outside of the Ryokan Ikoi, there is a free footbath attached to a table and a space to sit by a charcoal flame. Additionally, there is a small station where you can buy and try onsen tamago – a soft-boiled egg cooked in sulfury onsen waters.

Ryokan Yamamizuki

Ryokan Yamamizuki is a bit farther from the village center than other ryokans, but it is a beautiful place to visit located right next to the Tanoharu River.

I’ve read that there is a shuttle that can take you to this ryokan from the village center, but I opted to take the nice walking route instead.

At the ryokan entrance, you can place valuables in a small locker before proceeding to the bathing area. There is also a cafe and a small store.

The entrances to the baths are different for day trippers and overnight guests, so be sure to make sure you head to the right place. For women, the purple entrance on the right is for onsen-hopping guests.

Yamamizuki had the nicest showering area of the 3 onsens I visited as well as a magnificent outdoor onsen that overlooks the water. This outdoor bath is similar to the one at Okunoyu except that it is gender separated and much, much larger. I enjoyed being able to see the river below as a symphony of birds chirped overhead.

The water at Yamamizuki is also very hot but since the bath is big, the temperature varies depending on where you sit. In addition to the outdoor bath, there is also an indoor bath, albeit much smaller.

Signs at Yamamizuki state that no tattoos are allowed, but my partner had no problems bathing after putting on tattoo-covering bandage stickers. (More on this below).

Ryokan Ichinoi

I spent the night at a different Ryokan called Ichinoi. (Overnight guests get to use onsen facilities for free so it is good to choose somewhere other than your onsen hopping spots for lodging.)

While Ryokan Ichinoi has public, gender-separated baths, I used their private rental bath instead.

For 1,000 yen, you get 45 minutes in a private bathing room. There is a small space for washing before entering the bath as well as a large sink and amenities for after.

These private rooms can be reserved at the front desk (overnight guests only). The pictures of the baths looked quite small, but I was pleasantly surprised that the actual bath was bigger than I had expected.

Private baths are great for families and couples, as well as those with large tattoos. Though most private baths are indoors and don’t have grand views like the outdoor public baths, they still offer a unique bathing experience that is more private and intimate.

Onsen and Ryokan Map

Find a map of all the Ryokans and hot springs in Kurokawa Onsen Village, here.

Onsen Etiquette

It can be a bit intimidating to bathe in a Japanese Onsen if it is your first time. Here are a few pointers.

  • Take your shoes off at the front entrance (looking at the shoes, you can get an idea of how many others will be with you in the bath).
  • Remove your valuables and clothes and place them in the provided lockers or bins. (Guests are not permitted to enter the bath with a swimsuit on or with a towel wrapped around the body. You can take a small towel into the bathing area, but this towel should not enter the water.
  • Find the washing area which is equipped with soap products, a bucket, and a stool.
  • Sit on the stool and completely wash your hair and body. (If you aren’t washing your hair, make sure it is tied up).
  • After you have washed and rinsed off, you can dip into the baths. Make sure to keep your hair out of the water. Swimming is not allowed and dipping your head under is not considered sanitary.
  • After you have finished soaking, rinse off in the wash area and head back to the changing room.
  • Here you’ll find hairdryers as well as an assortment of lotions and moisturizers depending on each location.
  • You’ve done it, you’ve bathed in a Japanese onsen!

Are Tattoos Allowed in Onsens?

Because of old views that tattoos are generally worn by members of the yakuza, they are slightly taboo in Japan, especially in onsens. (Views are changing slowly and some places have become more accepting of tattooed guests, but it is worth being prepared to have the most enjoyable time).

Since I was traveling to Kurokawa with someone who had tattoos (two relatively large ones on either rib cage), I inquired directly to the Kurokawa Tourist Center about tattoos.

Their response was along the lines of “Tattoos are generally allowed but it varies depending on each ryokan so it’s good to check with each one individually”.

The ryokan I stayed at, Ichinoi, said that they don’t have a rule against tattoos.

In general, it seems like Kurokawa Onsen is a popular place for foreigners that is more open-minded and accommodating of tattoos than other places. Just to be safe, however, you can cover small to medium-sized tattoos with skin-colored tattoo stickers before bathing. These can easily be purchased from Amazon.

Where to Stay in Kurokawa Onsen

Kurokawa Onsen is extremely popular during the winter season, so if you’re planning to visit, book your lodgings and transportation early.

I stayed at Ryokan Ichinoi during my trip and loved it. The staff was friendly and the provided meals (dinner and breakfast) were also delightful. I highly recommend Ryokan Ichinoi if you’re visiting Kurokawa Onsen!

The ryokan is about a 7-minute walk from the center of the village, but pickup from the bus stop is available if arranged beforehand.

My room had tatami floors as well as two Western-style beds. A shower was in the room, but access to the downstairs onsen was also available for free.

The room was spacious and came with a set of yukatas that could be worn around the ryokan and outside while onsen hopping.

As for meals, both dinner and breakfast were included in the room rate. The dining space was a little odd, but the meals were full of fresh local delicacies like mustard lotus root, raw chicken, wagyu, and river fish.

What to Eat in Kurokawa Onsen Village

Aside from the food at the ryokan you stay at, here are a few other food spots to try around the village.

Tofu Kissho (とうふ料理 吉祥)

For those looking for a cleansing meal, Tofu Kissho is a restaurant that specializes in tofu and other plant-based dishes. Settle into the tatami mats and Celtic adventure music as you sample dishes such as konjac (a jelly-like root), fried tofu, tofu ice cream, baked tofu with miso, and more….

Even as a meat lover, I was surprised to find the set meals quite filling though a bit on the expensive side.

Yamatake – Natural Root Vegetable Cuisine (Yama no Ibuki) – 「山のいぶき」自然薯料理やまたけ

For a little more protein on the plate, Yamatake is a neat place where you grill your food directly at the table using an inlaid charcoal grill. This restaurant’s specialty is mountain yam, which has a gooey slimy texture – definitely not for everyone.

For those adverse to slimy foods, there are also other dishes like meat, veggies, tofu, and fish to cook over the charcoal grill. (The chicken set was not very good though so I don’t recommend that one.)

Onsen Tamago

Around the village, you might come across little steaming huts with eggs in a bath of water. This is an onsen tamago station! Here you can try eggs cooked in onsen water and enjoy their velvety smooth yolks.

The stations are unmanned but a coin box to deposit your money is attached. Small salt packets are prepared so you can season your eggs and enjoy a fun little snack while exploring the town.

There is an onsen tamago station on the way to Ryokan Ikoi, here, as well as in front of the ryokan itself.

Dora Dora Dorayaki Burger- どらどら

For those with a sweet tooth, dorayaki is a great Japanese confectionary to try. Dorayaki is made up of small pancake-like patties with sweet filling sandwiched between them. Red bean paste is traditionally used as the filling, but at Dora Dora, you can find their special Dorayaki Burger which includes red bean paste and a mochi filling inside.

As decadent as it sounds, these snacks are not too sweet making it easy to have more than one. Flavors include matcha, custard, toasted soybean powder, and more.

Pâtisserie Roku Cream Puff and Coffee Jelly- パティスリー 麓

Pâtisserie Roku is a small corner shop near Jizodo Temple that sells massive cream puffs! These giant balls are a flakey and delicious treat popular among all.

At the same shop, you can also try a super strong coffee jelly. It comes with a little pack of cream to pour over and mix in. The jelly is full of coffee flavor and is the perfect snack if you need a little caffeine boost.

Other Activities to Do in the Area

Visit Jizodo Temple

Jizodo Temple is in the center of the village. You’ll know you’ve found it when you see hundreds of hanging colorful wooden passes. People donate their completed onsen hopping passes at this temple.

Shop for Local Goods

For those looking to pick up some souvenirs, there are several small shops in the village such as a specialty pickle store, a sake shop, a honey shop, a pottery shop, and a handcrafted goods shop.

Walk the Nature Trails

If the onsen baths and eating have you itching for some exercise, then embark on one of the walking trails around the village and enjoy the surrounding nature.

I walked a route that starts at the Tourist Information Center, passes by the ryokan I stayed at, and continues on to Hiranodai, an observation point, and through a forest before reaching Ryokan Yamamizuki.

The walk is not that difficult and is great as it passes through a variety of different landscapes. See what the trail is like in my video here!

And here is a map of the different trails.

Hike Mt. Aso

Mt. Aso is Kumamoto’s famous hiking spot and is known as Japan’s most active volcano. While hiking conditions depend on the level of volcanic activity, if you can visit on a good day, you’ll be in for a rocky climbing session with volcanic views. Check out this hike to learn more!

Hiking Mt Aso

Stop By Tsuetate Onsen

On the way to Kurokawa Onsen Village is Tsuetate Onsen, another cozy onsen area. This place is famous for its carp streamer decorations that take place from late March to May. Stop by if you are visiting during that time for breathtaking views of the beautiful rainbow carp. Learn more about Tsuetate Onsen here!

Tsuetate Onsen Koinobori Festival

Final Thoughts

I hope this guide was helpful in planning what to do in Kurokawa! This area makes for a great weekend trip if you are in Kyushu so I definitely recommend visiting!

See my recommendations for other trips in and around Kyushu below!

2 thoughts on “Kurokawa Onsen Village: Onsen Hopping and Overnight Stay”

  1. Hi! This was so informative thank you!!
    I am curious, was your tattooed partner able to enter any other public onsen with his tattoos bandaged? I have a full sleeve tattoo. I’m trying to book at the Ryokan you suggested above but it seems like they’re full for my dates.

Share your thoughts here!