aso & around

Kurokawa Onsen

Experience authentic Japanese inns and rustic hot springs in this picturesque riverside town

Kumamoto is a city located on the island of Kyushu in japan. It is known for its rich history, beautiful scenery, and abundance of natural hot springs. One of the most famous hot spring towns in Kumamoto is Kurokawa Onsen. This charming riverside town is nestled in a valley surrounded by mist-covered hills, creating a picturesque backdrop for a relaxing getaway.

Kurokawa Onsen is home to around thirty traditional Japanese inns, known as ryokans, that offer a unique and authentic experience for visitors. Staying at one of these inns allows you to immerse yourself in Japanese culture and hospitality. The inns provide cozy tatami-floor rooms, where you can relax and unwind after a day of exploring the town. Slip into a light cotton yukata robe, a traditional Japanese garment, and stroll through the streets in old-fashioned geta sandals for the complete experience.

One of the highlights of visiting Kurokawa Onsen is going to different baths in your yukata. The town has a variety of hot springs to choose from, each with its own unique charm. The hot springs are believed to have healing properties due to their naturally mineral-rich spring waters. Taking a dip in these therapeutic baths is a popular activity among visitors. In addition to the relaxing hot springs, Kurokawa Onsen also offers beautiful mountain hikes and scenic drives. English language maps are available at the town’s information center, making it easy to navigate and explore the area.

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Getting to Kurokawa Onsen is relatively easy, although it is not on any rail lines. You can reach the town via a direct highway bus from the city of Fukuoka. Direct buses leave from Fukuoka Airport and Hakata Station, which are accessible by bullet train from Osaka and Tokyo. If you’re traveling from Kumamoto Station, Aso Station is the nearest local stop to Kurokawa Onsen. From there, you can take a taxi or bus to reach the town. If you prefer to drive, be cautious on the small, winding roads and note that inn parking is limited and mostly reserved for overnight guests. Public parking is available for day visitors.

Once you arrive in Kurokawa Onsen, you will be greeted by a retro townscape that feels like stepping back in time. The town has preserved its simple, traditional atmosphere, offering a peaceful and serene environment for visitors. The streets are lined with quiet cafes and shops, perfect for leisurely exploration. You can also enjoy locally made souvenirs, such as handmade pottery, printed fabrics, senbei crackers, and sake. Kurokawa Onsen even offers a bar-hopping pass that allows you to try a variety of sake and shochu at different places across town.

When it comes to choosing which hot springs to visit, Kurokawa Onsen has plenty to offer. The first thing you should do upon arrival is get the Nyuto Tegata onsen-hopping pass. This pass allows you to visit up to three different participating bathhouses for a discounted price. The information center provides handy English language pamphlets and can offer recommendations based on your preferences. Most of the hot springs are within walking distance of the information center’s car park, making it convenient to explore.

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Each hot spring in Kurokawa Onsen has its own unique design and features. Some hot springs are located in caves, while others offer breathtaking views of waterfalls. If you prefer a quieter experience, you can visit hot springs on the outskirts of town, such as Hozantei or Yamamizuki. Hozantei offers a natural rustic setting and stunning riverside views, while Yamamizuki is a spacious riverside onsen. Whichever hot spring you choose, you can expect to be surrounded by beautiful scenery and enjoy the soothing benefits of the mineral-rich waters.

It’s important to note that there are certain etiquette rules to follow when visiting the hot springs in Kurokawa Onsen. Most of the hot springs have separate baths for men and women, and bathing is done naked. Swimsuits, clothing, and jewelry are not permitted in the hot springs. Before entering the public water, it is mandatory to wash thoroughly and tie up your hair if it has a chance of touching the water. While tattoos are generally not permitted in public hot springs, some places may allow them if they are covered. Private baths are also available for rental if you prefer a more private experience.

Aside from indulging in the hot springs, Kurokawa Onsen offers plenty of opportunities for relaxation and enjoyment. The town is known for its beautiful scenery, especially during certain times of the year. Cherry blossom season in spring and the changing of the autumn leaves are particularly stunning. Autumn is also a great time to visit due to the temperate climate, while winter offers a chilly and cozy atmosphere. During peak seasons, such as New Year’s, Silver Week, and Golden Week, the town can get crowded, so it’s best to plan your visit accordingly.

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In between baths, you can explore the shops and restaurants in Kurokawa Onsen. The town offers multiple chances for souvenir shopping, allowing you to bring a piece of the onsen experience back home with you. Whether it’s snow shoes, bath salts, or locally made gifts, there is something for everyone. You can also try a variety of sake and shochu with the bar-hopping pass, or enjoy a delicious meal at one of the town’s restaurants. Finish off your day with a relaxing evening in your comfortable tatami room, and leave your leftover bathing tokens at the local shrine or take them home as a souvenir.

In conclusion, Kurokawa Onsen in Kumamoto is a hidden gem that offers an authentic and tranquil Japanese experience. From the cozy ryokans and rustic hot springs to the retro townscape and beautiful scenery, this riverside town has something for everyone. Whether you’re looking to relax and unwind, explore the natural surroundings, or immerse yourself in Japanese culture, Kurokawa Onsen is the perfect destination. So slip into a yukata, put on some geta sandals, and embark on a journey of relaxation and rejuvenation in this picturesque town.

Address And Maps Location:

Kurokawaonsen, Minamioguni-machi, Aso-gun, Kumamoto-ken

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