Kurokawa onsen in Kumamoto is one of the most famous onsen towns in Japan. The most popular thing to do here is, of course, to go onsen hopping. But with over 30 hot springs in the area, it can be stressful trying to plan and budget for all the different types of onsen experiences. Not to worry, we’re here to help you with a two-day onsen hopping guide that’s sure to help you get your money’s worth!
Onsen Hopping Pass (Nyuto Tegata)
First, purchase your onsen hopping pass at the tourist information center in town. The pass is valid for six months and will allow you to visit three different onsens at ¥1,300 each (~S$16). What a great deal!
Onsen #1: Yamamizuki
Start your onsen hopping with Yamamizuki! A picturesque riverside onsen that offers an experience unlike any other, it’s easy to see why Yamamizuki features on so many must-visit lists.
The whole area oozes serenity and tranquility, complemented by its tasteful layout and decor. There are two outdoor baths and two indoors baths, both separated by gender. There is also a private bath available for booking. It’s free for guests who are staying here overnight, but guests who aren’t can reserve it too for an additional ¥2,000.
Trust us, the open-air bath in Yamamizuki will be one of the highlights of your trip in Kumamoto. Just look at how beautiful it is!
Warokuya has glowing reviews on TripAdvisor and they’re known for their Aso beef and fried chicken. In fact, someone left a comment saying that he almost “burst in happy tears” after taking his first bite of the beef. The owner is also so confident, there’s a sign in the restaurant that says that they will close down if you’ve had better fried chicken! Made karaage style, the chicken is crispy on the outside and oh so tender on the inside.
As Kumamoto is one of the few prefectures that farms horse meat, you’ll also find horse meat on the menu here. Word has it that it tastes reminiscent of beef!
Stay at: Ryokan Ikoi
Ryokan Ikoi houses a whopping 13 different types of onsen, and that’s why we suggest spending a night here. It’s also a ryokan that’s on the list of the Top 100 Onsen Ryokan in Japan, the only one from Kurokawa onsen!
Some of its unique baths are the Taki-no-yu, which was chosen as one of the Top 100 Hot Springs in Japan. A mixed bath, both men and women can soak here where the landscape resembles a natural waterfall within a forest.
The Bijin-yu is exclusively for women, and its water is especially good for the skin. It leaves it soft and supple after you leave the bath!
Another unique bath to try out is the standing bath, Tachi-yu. It is 1.5m deep with bamboo poles where you can drape your arms onto to enjoy a relaxing time.
There are also six different family and private onsen that you can reserve for your own use.
Dinner and breakfast is usually included into the rate when you’re staying at a ryokan. Ryokan Ikoi serves a delicious kaiseki meal for dinner made from fresh local ingredients, and the meal is prepared with great care. Breakfast is similarly impressive and hearty to energize you for the rest of your day!
Onsen #2: Yama no Yado Shinmeikan
Yama no Yado Shinmeikan offers the unique experience of an onsen within a rock cave. There is a section for mixed bathing as well as a section just for women. Unlike open air onsen, the rock cave keeps the steam inside which makes it feel like you’re taking a dip in a sauna. Make sure not to drink lots of water beforehand so you don’t dehydrate!
Apart from its cave onsen, Shinmeikan also has an open air, mixed gender onsen, and two indoor onsen for men and women.
If you’re travelling as a family with kids, you have the option of booking the Kajika-no-yu, a private family onsen at an additional ¥2,000 for 40 minutes.
Onsen #3: Ryokan Sanga
For the last stop on our itinerary, we make our way to Ryokan Sanga which is within a forest along a mountain stream. What’s special here is that they have two types of onsen: a medicinal onsen as well as one that’s great for the skin!
The medicinal yakushi-no-yu is a mixture of two different springs and contains sulfur, which is said to be good for a wide variety of ailments. This onsen is separated by gender. Men will enjoy the onsen in a rock bath, while the women’s yakushi-no-yu is made of cypress wood.
On the other hand, the open air onsen features a bluish-water that carries many skin benefits. There is a mixed bath area, as well as one which is for women only. Here, you will soak in the onsen while listening to the calming river flow – a perfect way to end off your time in Kurokawa onsen.