yufuin-onsen-town-oita

Top Things to Do in Yufuin, Oita – A Kyushu Hot Spring Town

Overview

Does relaxing in a hot outdoor bath and gazing at a snowy mountain in the distance sound like the kind of weekend for you? If so, head to the onsen town of Yufuin in Oita, Kyushu! (Note, winter is needed for the snowy mountain part).

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Located in the northern part of Kyushu Island, Yufuin is a quaint little place to escape from busy city life and enjoy yummy food while strolling on the street.

Keep reading for some of the best things to do (and eat) during your stay in this cozy hot spring town!

If you’re looking for more onsen destinations around Kyushu, make sure to check out Kurokawa Onsen Village! See here for the full guide.

Getting to Yufuin

From Fukuoka, you can reach Yufuin in just under two hours either by bus or train. If you plan to travel from Hakata Station by bus, be sure to book your tickets early as seats are limited and only a few buses run each day. (Believe me, I learned the hard way.)

You can make reservations up to one month in advance from the Highway Bus website here. (Set your destination to the Yufuin Station Bus Center)

For travel from Beppu, another popular onsen spot in Oita, transit takes only 50 minutes by bus.

Top Things to Do in Yufuin

Yufuin is the place to visit if you’re looking to slow down, do a bit of eating and shopping, and hop in an onsen or two. (For those wanting a more lively getaway, check out Nagasaki or Okinawa instead.

Since many items on this list involve eating, I recommend ordering a little bit each time to visit several different spots.

Savor Fire-Roasted Shitake Mushrooms

Near the entrance to Yufuin Floral Village is a small popup stall (Yukufin41Takebu) that sells roasted shitake mushrooms. These aren’t just any old cooked mushrooms though, they are stuffed with miso paste, topped with melty cheese, and have a garnish of seaweed powder on top.

The mushrooms are separated by size and you get to choose your own from the basket. It takes a while to cook but believe me, it’s worth the wait.

Biting into the mushroom’s meaty flesh, savor the salty umami of the miso and gooey cheese that melts in your mouth.

Bathe in Musouen Onsen

If you want to treat yourself to a luxurious Japanese-style inn, consider staying at Yamanohotel Musouen. This ryokan is a few minutes away from the center of town and boasts magnificent views of Mt. Yufu, especially from the open-air onsen bath. If you visit in the winter, enjoy the view of snow-capped Mt. Yufu in the distance as you soak.

Image from Musouen website

Those who don’t stay at the hotel are still allowed to bathe in the hot spring for 900 yen.

Other onsens that are recommended by locals are Yasuha (Book a stay or visit the onsen) and Yufuin Tsuka No Ma. (Book a stay or visit the onsen)

Taste Spicy Citrus Yuzu Kosho

Yuzu koshou is a citrus paste with a spicy punch. It is a specialty of Oita prefecture and is made from fermented chilis, salt, and yuzu peel. Its spicy, citrus flavor is often paired with gyoza, yakiniku meats, and noodles as it brightens any dish it is added to.

Yakumiya is located on the main shopping street in downtown Yufuin and is a specialty yuzu kosho store. Here you can try different types of yuzu kosho and find other unique spices like yuzu furikake (seaweed flakes). Every time I come to Yufuin, I pick up a bottle of yuzu kosho from this store to replenish my stash at home.

Eat Milky German Sweets

At Milch, a German-style bakery, you can try “Kase Kuchen”, a cheesecake with a crispy bottom and melty insides. Choose between ordering it hot and fluffy, or served cool and moist.

Image from Milch website

Shop for Wooden Crafts

As you walk along the main street, you’ll probably notice Craft House Hachinosu’s unique structure. The building itself is called Getten Hasshin, and was designed by Mr. Tetsuro Kurokawa. The design is meant to represent the moon in an abstract way with its skylights, elliptical shape, and geometric pattern.

Inside Craft House Hachinosu, browse the assortment of wood-based, handcrafted goods including accessories and homewares. A cafe is located on the second floor if you want to rest inside and enjoy the unique architecture.

Treat yourself to Oita Wagyu

Oita’s special wagyu beef is called bungo beef. Pop by Yufu Mabushi Shin to try their richly marbled wagyu meat that comes drizzled with a glaze all atop a bed of rice. The specialty set includes an appetizer platter, soup, and a variety of spices to enhance the meat.

Bungo Beef
Bungo Beef

To enjoy the meal in multiple ways, a pot of hot broth is included. Pour this over the rice and meat and enjoy the food in a warm, soupy style. Read more about Yufu Mabushi Shin’s wagyu dishes here!

See the Koi and Steam at Lake Kirin

Lake Kinrin is about a 20-minute stroll from Yufin Station and a good place to head to if you are on the main shopping street. It is said that in the morning you can see mystical steam rising from its waters, but the weather conditions have to be just right for this to appear.

There are many koi fish in the Lake, so even if you don’t find any steam during your stay, you can still enjoy the pleasant view of the fish and Mt. Yufu in the background.

Located around Lake Kirin are two cafes where you can relax with a cup of tea and some sweets. Cafe La Ruche has a wide terrace that faces the water and serves light meals, coffee, tea, and Yufuin beer.

Nearby the lake is another Yufu Mabushi Shin bungo beef restaurant (mentioned above) if you want to taste Oita’s famous Wagyu beef. (Come early or be prepared for a wait as this place is quite popular).

Relax in an Old-Style Cafe

The second cafe close to Lake Kinrin is called Sabo Tenjo Sajiki. Climb the steps to the second floor and relax in a building that was once a sake shop during the end of Edo period. The cafe serves a specialty dessert that is shaped like Mt. Yufu as well as sandwiches, chocolate cake, coffee, and tea.

Pick up Studio Ghibli Souvenirs

For all the Totoro, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, (etc) fans out there, Yufuin has the perfect store for you! At Donguri No Mori you’ll find a wide variety of Studio Ghibli memorabilia, homewares, and stationery.

Some of my favorite things are the semi-transparent puzzle sets. They are a cool twist on traditional puzzles and the mini ones are small enough to easily fit in a suitcase.

Floral Village…

Many people recommend Floral Village, but I don’t see the hype. It’s an okay place to take a photo or two, but I personally don’t find the shops inside that interesting.

Since Floral Village is located near some of the other spots I do recommend, you can check it out for yourself, but it shouldn’t be a priority.

Other Activities in the Area

Hike Mt. Aso

For a bit more activity, hop in a car and head to Mt. Aso for volcanic views and hiking. There is an assortment of different trails so you can choose something for any level. Horseback riding in a small field is also available during certain times of the year. Note that the area’s landscape changes dramatically depending on the time of year.

mt-aso-frozen-pond-winter

See what it is like to hike Mt. Nakadake, one of Mt. Aso’s tallest peaks.

Hike Mt. Yufu

Mt. Yufu is another spot you can hike if you are up for a bit of exercise. (I personally haven’t done this hike yet, but the locals I have met highly recommend it so I will be sure to try it on my next trip).

Dinner Recommendations

Izakaya – Maru

Maru is a small izakaya with counters and a few tables. The menu is written on the walls in Japanese which can be a bit difficult for non-Japanese speakers.

Not to worry though, the owner is lively and will recommend good dishes to you. One of the specialties is the sashimi plate which is fresh and delicious!

Udon – 元祖豊後肉汁うどん

This udon shop is located on the main shopping street. It serves a special thick udon that takes a little extra time to cook.

I’ve tried the spicy udon which was good and not too spicy, but they also have a yuzu udon in the summer that looks refreshing. The restaurant is only open until 5:30 pm so it makes for a good early meal.

Yakitori – CARNE 湯布院 串焼き

CARNE is an upscale yakitori eatery that serves Japanese skewers and small plates. As it is a popular place, it’s better to make reservations beforehand. Additionally, since skewers can run out later in the evening it is good to come early!

Izakaya – Tama

Tama is another local spot with lots of Japanese dishes. Their specialty is kushikatsu or small fried sticks.

Where to Stay in Yufuin

There are several different ryokans to stay at in Yufuin including some local recommendations like Yasuha, Yamanohotel Musouen, and Yufuin Tsuka No Ma.

It is a great treat to stay at a ryokan like one of these that has hot springs so you can enjoy the special mineral baths the area is known for.

Final Thoughts

Yufuin is a great place to travel to for a quiet weekend full of hot springs, food, and a bit of nature. It is relatively easy to travel to from Fukuoka via bus or train, so be sure to add it to your list of places to go in Japan!

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Looking for other day trips near Fukuoka and Kyushu? Check out some of the trips below!

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