Friday, December 24, 2010

Kyushu, Japan December '10 - Beppu, Usuki, Yufuin

 Day 1 - Fukuoka - Beppu
We traveled to Kyushu in mid-December. We arrived in Fukuoka some time in the morning. After collecting the car in the airport vicinity, we headed to Beppu, the most popular onsen town in Kyushu. The journey was more than 80km.  We stopped along the way at scenic spots....

We drove past Sagiridai, which is at Asokuju National Park. It is a scenic lookout, where one can see the grassy mountains on one side and the city view on the left.

Although it was winter then, and all the grass and trees turned brown, it was truly a magnificent view.

Hita Hagio Park.

We arrived at the hotel in Beppu in the evening. We had our dinner in the room, which included shabushabu and various other Japanese side dishes.

There was clearly too much for us to finish. :P
Day 2 - Tour around Beppu

We visited Beppu Jigoku Meguri - a "must visit" attraction in Beppu. Jigoku means "hell" in Japanese. These "hells" are actually hot springs; there are 8 of these "hells" in the Kannawa region, each with its unique properties and attractions.

Umi Jigoku, or Sea Hell.

Yama Jigoku, or Mountain Hell.

Foot bath - which was badly translated as "hot spring of a leg".

 Here we were, "bathing our legs" in the midst of the snow......Yes, it was snowing in the morning when we visited the Jigoku (actually, it was raining, but the weather was so cold the rain became ice crystals).  Freezing.  The foot bath really brought much comfort and warmth in that icy weather...very "shiok"!  

The group of tourists from Korea were gone later.  So we had the whole bath by ourselves, yeh!

 Snow kept falling on our heads.....It was snowing rather heavily that morning.

Some other "hells".We took eggs which were cooked in the hot springs.

In the afternoon, we went to Takegawara Onsen, the oldest onsen in Japan. It was constructed in 1879.  You could do the regular bath or sand bath.  We did the sand bath.  We were provided with a robe, a shallow pit was prepared for us to lie before we were covered with black sand from neck to toe. We lay there for 10 min.  After which we shoved off the sand, took a shower and enjoyed the normal onsen.  A good experience but I would prefer the sand to be a little warmer.....And, remember to bring your own towels.  They charge you for towels. Bring a shower cap too, it you don't want the sand to stick to your hair.  We went all well prepared:D

Here's the reception area of Takegawara Onsen.  Too bad that we can't take picture of the sand onsen.

After Takegawara Onsen, we headed to Suginio Palace, for more onsen. We wanted to bring the kids to Aquabeat - an indoor water playgroud but it was closed for renovation.  So we went to the Suginio Tanayu next door, which has a huge outdoor swimming pool over looking Beppu City as well as onsens with fantastic view over looking Beppu Bay.  The swimming pool is unisex - we are allowed to wear swim suits of course.

There was one pool which was quite unique - the pool is inside a dome shape structure, with very salty water, to help us to float. Once we stayed afloat, we could put our ears in the water to enjoy some very soothing music.  It is a pity that we did not manage to take any picture of Suginoi Tanayu.

Our dinner at a nearby shopping mall.

 Day 3 - Beppu - Usuki - Yufuin
Breakfast at the hotel.

After breakfast, we headed to the Usuki Stone Buddhas, said to be sculptured in the 8-12th century, which are designated as national treasure of Japan.  The various clusters of about 60 stone buddhas were carved on rocks and mountain walls.

 Gorin-tou, or Five ring pagoda.
Bamboo forest.

 Next, we toured around Usuki vicinity.  This is the ruins of Usuki castle
A samurai residence.  Too bad it was closed.

Our next destination -Yufuin. Yufuin is an attractive small town where there are many little shops selling souvenirs such as snacks and glass ornaments, restaurants, galleries.

 There was also the beautiful Lake Kinrin.

Our hotel for the night was Shimizu in Yufuin vicinity. It looks like a humble ryokan tucked away in the mountains from the outside. However, it was a homely and cozy place.  

The novelty of this ryokan is that it has a cave onsen!  What's best, we had the onsen all by ourselves.  It seems to be very popular amongst the local.  As we were having our dinner, we saw the guests streaming in.  We were fortunate to arrive earlier to be able to enjoy the cave onsen all by ourselves.  We noted that all the guests were males.  Upon chatting with the friendly hotel staff, who is a young chap and the only person in the ryokan who could speak English, we learned that the ryokan was fully booked by 2 to 3 corporate clients that night.

They served us  welcome tea and sweet in our room.

The room is really huge.  Very huge indeed by Japan standard.....The area which we were having tea was later converted into a sleeping area - below pic and there is another adjoining room for another 2 beds

This is the other room.
There was a third room behind which has a fridge and table.  We used it to put our luggage.  A corridor leading to the wardrobe....we loved the space and the coziness of this ryokan!

We had our dinner in a cozy dining room with a fireplace. Dinner was a 2 hours affairs cos there were at least 8 dishes and they took their time to serve each dish. Here are some dishes we had for dinner.

The fireplace.
 Here's the ryokan lobby.
 The entrance....very cold out there...

Breakfast was served in the same dinning room.

The name of the ryokan
A stream in front of the ryokan.

Time to set off to Aso! It shall be in the next post.


  1. So much delicious food! Is it a must to change into the japanese outfit when you're in the hotel? Qi looks so tall in it!

  2. We change into the yukata before we go to the onsen. It is more convenient to wear it when we go for the onsen as it is easy to change in and out of. After the onsen, we would usually wear it for dinner as it keeps us cool after the hot bath. Actually, when the locals go to ryokans like this, they do not bring much clothes as they wear this yukata around the hotel, even when they sleep!

  3. Our family is heading over to Kyushu in early to mid December... and your posts have been quite interesting (also as a way of getting a feel for the weather). Looks like it was a mixed bag.

    Thanks for sharing... any overall highlights (or lowlights) that you'd like to mention? We were heading Fukuoka > Beppu > Aso > Kumamoto > Nagasaki > Dazaifu > Fukuoka (over about 8 days).

    Looking forward to it - but worried about weather (we are travelling with 8mo baby).

  4. Kyushu winter is supposed to be mild. It was a surprise to experience snow in Beppu when we visited in Dec. Beppu is famous for its onsen, an experience not to be missed. Suginio Palace in Beppu has an outdoor swimming pool which allow swimsuits, kids should enjoy. Aso - highlight is the suspension bridge and mountain view. Kumamoto's famous delicacy is horse sashimi if one is game enough for it. The roykan which we stayed had that for dinner (you can refer to the post). Nagasaki - the atomic bomb museum is interesting for a piece of history. Dazaifu - main highlight is the shrine and some shops. Hope this helps.

  5. Such a really great stuff friend thanks a lot for sharing it with us.

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  6. My family is planning a self-drive trip to Kyushu in December. Hope you can share your other experiences with us.

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  7. my family is planning to drive in kyushu in mid dec. I read reviews that it is advisable not to drive in winter months, especially for us who comes from a tropic country. Did you face any difficulties when driving to kurokawa? especially after it snows in Beppu?

  8. Hi,can email your kyushu self drive iternary to me? Am going in nov 2015 with 2 kids & find ur iternary very suitable for my family. Thanks