Photos from the Road: The Mineral Baths of Kurokawa Onsen

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Photos from the Road: The Mineral Baths of Kurokawa Onsen

kurokawa onsen

My trip to Japan was loosely planned around onsen. Onsen is the Japanese term for hot springs. Only on rare occasions are these hot springs in a natural setting. More commonly, a bath has been built and the naturally hot mineral water has been piped to the bath house. Many times the bath is part of a ryokan, a traditional (and usually very nice) Japanese inn.

kurokawa onsen

The onsen at Okyakuya Ryokan in Kurokawa Onsen Japan

 

In the past, I have generally preferred natural hot springs, but was eager to visit any onsen I could, just because they play such an important part in Japanese culture as well as its domestic tourism scene.

 

An afternoon soaking in the hot springs of Kurokawa Onsen

 

Enter Kurokawa Onsen. It is literally a village of onsen. There’re over 25 or them here, and they’re all attached to ryokan. Kurokawa village is located in a remote (for Japan) mountain valley in central Kyushu. I stopped for the afternoon in transit between Aso Caldera and Beppu. The village tourism office offers visitors an “onsen passport”. Purchasing the onsen passport for 1200 yen ($12.50 US) gives you the opportunity to sample three Kurokawa onsen.

kurokawa onsen

The iron tubs at Ryokan Yumotosou.

 

That’s exactly what I did. I took the first bus out of Aso town in the morning and spent the next 5 hours dipping in and out of hot mineral baths. They are all unique—some located along the stream flowing through town, some quite large, some indoors, some out. I tried to take photos where I could, just so you could get an idea of the atmosphere.

 

If you can afford to stay at one of the ryokan, you can obviously use its onsen for no additional charge. It would be preferable to stay overnight in the village, but my budget didn’t allow for it. But it was fun to sample three of the onsen and get a chance to peek inside each of the ryokan.

Kurokawa Onsen village view (6)

A view of Kurokawa Onsen village

 

Central Kurokawa

Central Kurokawa

 

baths at  Ryokan Yumotosou Kurokawa Onsen

The small onsen at Ryokan Yumotosou are situated alongside the steam.

 

planning my day at Kurokawa Onsen

Planning my day at Kurokawa Onsen.

 

A multi-language chart showing onsen etiquette.

A multi-language chart showing onsen etiquette.

 

View of the stream from Okyakuya Ryokan.

View of the stream from Okyakuya Ryokan.

 

at Okyakuya ryokan onsen at Kurokawa Onsen village Kyushu Japan

The dressing area by the Okyakuya ryokan onsen.

 

buckets at Okyakuya ryokan onsen at Kurokawa Onsen village Kyushu Japan

Buckets used for bathing before entering the onsen.

 

Okyakuya ryokan onsen at Kurokawa Onsen village Kyushu Japan (4)

View of the mineral bath at Okyakuya Ryokan.

 

Okyakuya ryokan onsen at Kurokawa Onsen village Kyushu Japan (8)

An alternative view of the mineral bath at Okyakuya Ryokan.

 

Kurokawa Onsen Spa Resort Hot spring Village

 

 

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Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno has been traveling the world and writing about it for the better part of 15 years. His articles and essays have appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Seattle Times, and Transitions Abroad magazine. He blogs at Bohemian Traveler and edits the independent travel magazine GoMadNomad.com. He most recently set up a tour company offering authentic, small group tours at Unquote Travel. Follow him on Google +, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

1 Comment

  1. Simon says:

    I love the photos you’ve taken here Stephen, they’re fab!

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