Story Onsen in Kyushu by JNTO on 04 January 2018
Kyushu is abundant with hot springs, or onsen in Japanese, and officially marketed as ‘Onsen Island Kyushu’ by the local tourism board. The profusion of hot springs is due in part to Kyushu’s very landscape: it’s home to no less than 9 volcano groups that are responsible for creating the island’s thermal waters.
Situated in northern Kyushu, this prefecture has been nicknamed ‘Onsen Oita’ because it produces the highest volume of thermal water in Japan. Within Oita there are two major hot spring sites – Beppu and Yufuin.
Beppu Onsen is home to 10% of Japan’s onsen spots, with over 2,000 locations spread over eight towns nicknamed Beppu Hatto, or the ‘eight hot springs of Beppu’. Each town offers something different. From large-scale, family-oriented spas to secluded ryokans in the mountains, there’s something for everyone. Some people have even completed the Beppu Hatto Onsendo by visiting 88 spas on an onsen-hopping excursion.
Often preferred by Japanese visitors for its tranquil atmosphere, Yufuin eschews stereotypical large-scale onsen developments and features communal baths, craft studios, and cafes. There are picturesque views of Mt. Yufu which produces much of the thermal waters here.
Another popular onsen area is Kurokawa Onsen which looks like a village from the Edo era (1603-1868) filled with gorgeous traditional Japanese architecture. Plenty of classic ryokans line the Tanohara River Gorge which is surrounded by tranquil nature. Kurokawa’s authentic setting is its main draw, and you can get an onsen tegata, or onsen pass, which gets you into three ryokan for a hot spring bath.
After Oita, Kagoshima prefecture takes second place for the volume of thermal water produced. Located on the southern end of Kyushu, there are two popular onsen areas: Kirishima and Ibusuki.
Located on the foothills of the active Kirishima volcanoes, Kirishima Onsen consists of a number of hot spring areas boasting a variety of water qualities ranging from crystal clear springs to creamy sulfuric springs. Maruo Onsen is the largest, with plenty of ryokan (inns) and hotels, while Hayashida Onsen has a spectacular view of Sakurajima (an active cone volcano in Kinko Bay).
Further south in Satsuma Peninsula, Ibusuki is home to some 800 hot springs where numerous ryokan, hotels, and communal bathhouses offer thermal baths. The most popular draw of Ibusuki is undoubtedly its hot sand bath; visitors dressed in yukata (cotton kimono) are literally buried, by friendly shovel-toting staff, from neck to toe in hot sand with their heads wrapped in a towel.
The most popular onsen resort in Nagasaki is Unzen, located near the peak of Mt. Unzen, an active volcano. Hot springs here are sulfuric and highly acidic, varying from clear to milky gray in color, and can be sampled at various resorts and public bathhouses. Another draw of Unzen is its hot spring fields known as jigoku, or ‘hell’, featuring billowing fumaroles and gushing hot springs that spew milky water. A network of trails lead to some of these vents, pools and mud holes along the way.