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Off The Beaten Path: Relax Your Day Away In This Hidden Village

by Shigeki Abe April 09, 2015 4 Comments

off the beaten path travel japan snakku kurokawa onsen

What’s the one thing you must do when you go to Japan? Visit Mount Fuji? Eat great sushi? Enjoy amazing ramen? For me, it’s going to an amazing hot spring (onsen).

“Off The Beaten Path” is a series that explores some of the lesser known yet amazing places in Japan. So far, we’ve explored Nakasu (中洲), the hidden foodie mecca of Japan, Matsumoto(松本), the tranquil castle town in the Japanese alps, and Kiso-ji(木曽谷), the ancient highway that was used by the samurais. In this post, we explore a traditional onsen village nestled in the volcanic mountains of Kyushu: Kurokawa (黒川).

kurokawa onsen off the beaten path snakku map of japan

Kurokawa Onsen is situated in the volcanic mountain ranges of Kyushu and is truly a hidden village. Visitors can surround themselves with nature, relax in the historic hot springs, and forget about their worries.

kurokawa onsen map japan off the beaten path snakku

Map of Kurokawa

Kurokawa onsen has long been a renowned hot spring town. Since the feudal ages, the town has served as a getaway for samurais and lords to relax and mend their wounds. Their hot springs were often called “Kuzuyu,” which means “water which heals wounds.”

kurokawa onsen japan off the beaten path snakku

Takefue Ryokan at Kurokawa

Takefue Ryokan's private bath and rooms

Hallway at Ryokan Takefue

kurokawa onsen japan off the beaten path snakku ryokan sanga

Ryokan Sanga in Kurokawa

To this day, the town has kept the traditional atmosphere alive. You won’t find large multi-story hotels, tour buses, or neon billboards. What you will find is a quaint town dominated by traditional wooden buildings, stone paths, and small old-fashioned stores. Walking through the town wearing a yukata and wooden geta sandals is a magical and a peaceful experience.

kurokawa onsen japan off the beaten path snakku

© Juiceboxh3ro

kurokawa onsen japan off the beaten path snakku

© William Cho

Kurokawa Onsen stands out even in Japan for their picturesque ‘rotenburo’ or “outdoor hot springs.” The baths are all operated by traditional ryokans (inns). The inns and onsens are beautiful and unique: some are nestled in a grotto, some are in small caves, some are beside waterfalls, and some are alongside the river which runs through the town.

kurokawa onsen japan off the beaten path snakku

The river that passed through middle of town

kurokawa onsen japan off the beaten path snakku

© Kevin Tan

With so many hot springs in this little town, don’t you wish you could take a dip in as many as possible? Well you can, with the ‘Tegata’ or wooden bath passes. You can buy an all-day bath pass for ¥1300 at the town center which provides you admissions to baths at up to three different ryokans.

kurokawa onsen japan off the beaten path snakku tegata

Tegata hanging along a local temple © Ricardobtg

kurokawa onsen japan off the beaten path snakku

Beer cooled with natural spring water © Cipit

kurokawa onsen japan off the beaten path snakku

Footbbath © Lazyfri13th

kurokawa onsen japan off the beaten path snakku

Natural hot spring boiled eggs © Lazyfri13th

A visit to an onsen village would not be complete without staying at a Japanese ryokan. The inns in Kurokawa, like the town, are traditional and have no more than 20 rooms. You can’t go wrong with any of the inns, as they all have amazing hospitality, delicious multi-course meals, and access to their onsens.

kurokawa onsen japan off the beaten path snakku kaiseki

Sashimi from Takefue Ryokan

Traditional Japanese snacks from a local shop

kurokawa onsen japan off the beaten path snakku kaiseki

kurokawa onsen japan off the beaten path snakku kaiseki

© William Cho

But personally, we recommend Yamamizuki. It’s located at the edge of the town and has seven hot springs; two of which are considered to be the most beautiful even in Kurokawa. These two outdoor onsens are right on the edge of the river overlooking a small waterfall. It’s extremely peaceful and relaxing to just sit in the cozy warm water and overlook the natural scenery. Oh, and their food is made from local ingredients and are some of the best we’ve had at any ryokan.

kurokawa onsen japan off the beaten path snakku Yamamizuki

Entrance to Yamamizuki

kurokawa onsen japan off the beaten path snakku yamamizuki

Quaint little entrance to Yamamizuki

Inside the lobby

kurokawa onsen japan off the beaten path snakku yamamizuki

Lobby Area

kurokawa onsen japan off the beaten path snakku yamamizuki

Room at Yamamizuki

kurokawa onsen japan off the beaten path snakku yamamizuki

One of the seven baths at Yamamizuki

kurokawa onsen japan off the beaten path snakku yamamizuki

Onsen right next to the river and water fall

Shigeki Abe
Shigeki Abe

Founder of Snakku; Born in Tokyo and raised in New York, Shigeki has always traveled and explored the world through food.


4 Responses

Shigeki from Snakku
Shigeki from Snakku

October 03, 2016

Hi Angie. That’s amazing that you’ll be going to Kurokawa! It is literally like heaven on earth.
You can’t go wrong with any of the inns there. They are all amazing and have superb service and baths.
Also, Kurokawa is famous for having a town bath pass so you can visit the baths at Yamamizuki and experience their beautiful outdoor bath if you use your pass :)

Angie
Angie

September 12, 2016

Hello, I have booked Ryokan Sanga but your recommendation of Yamamizuki now put me in a dilemma. Any further comments on this to help me make my choice?

Shigeki from Snakku
Shigeki from Snakku

July 28, 2016

@bladimri lugo
I recommend to go to both major cities and rural areas to get a nice mix of Japan. Typically the best places to go are a few days in Tokyo, then traveling to the ancient city of Kyoto via bullet train, and stopping by Mt.Fuji area. Within all these areas, you can pick places to stay that are a bit more off the beaten path.
If you really want to go to non-touristy places, we recommend maybe going to a nice hot-spring town and spending a couple days there. Check out our blog post on Matsumoto. It’s a great sleepy castle town with lots of amazing hot spring resorts nearby. It’s definitely less touristy but just as amazing!

bladimri lugo
bladimri lugo

July 03, 2016

salute i live in mexico but im facinated with japan so is my dogther and im tinking of a travel to there for her graduation ill try as much to avoid turist crounded places, prefer the rural kind of travel any advise??

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