There’s no better way to unwind than through the relaxing Japanese custom of bathing in a hot spring or onsen. Hot springs are typically associated with secluded mountainous regions in Japan that see lots of snow in the winter. But, the sunny southern region of Japan, Kyushu, has its fair share of hot springs.
At the heart of Kyushu is Kumamoto Prefecture. Dotted with volcanic mountains, Kumamoto Prefecture is frequently referred to as the “land of fire” (hi no kuni). In fact, Kumamoto is home to Mount Aso, Japan’s most active volcano and one of the world’s largest caldera volcanoes. Regardless of the season you will be rewarded with striking views of Japan’s natural beauty.
1. Tsuetate Onsen: Historical & stunning
In the forested village of Oguni, hidden in the northern part of the Aso Mountain range is Tsuetate Onsen, a hot spring with some 1,700 years of history. Just how important is this hot spring? It’s said that Tsuetate Onsen is where Empress Jingu gave birth to Emperor Ojin, the 15th emperor of Japan. It’s even said that 8th century Buddhist monk Kukai gave the hot springs its name.
Stroll down the immaculately preserved streets of Sedoya, “the house behind the other house” for chance to experience mid-20th century Japan. Cries of “Natsukashii!” (That really takes me back!) will no doubt fill your ears.
2.Waita Onsen: Steamy haven
The narrow streets in the village of Waita Onsen are perpetually blanketed underneath a haze of steam, as if an enchanting spell has been cast upon it. In fact, this village commonly referred to as the “secret hot springs of Aso.”
In all, you’ll find six hot springs among the cloudy haze. However, what makes the hot springs of Waita unique is that there are several of its private baths are coin operated, making it the ultimate secluded spot.
3. Kurokawa Onsen: 25 to choose from
Visit Minami Oguni, and you’ll see why it’s member of the “Association of the Most Beautiful Villages in Japan.” Home to Kurokawa Onsen, its streets are flanked by traditional Japanese inns, public bath houses, shops and cafes, a small shrine and bridges.
Purchase a nyuyoki tegata, a circular wooden pass made of Oguni cedar wood, and you’ll be able to enjoy any three baths of your choice. There are 25 hot springs in Kurokawa, so choose wisely! At the end of your hot spring, you can keep the tegata as unique souvenir of your time in Kurokawa.
4. Kikuchi Onsen: Beauty in these waters
Compared to other hot spring in Kumamoto that have deep historical ties to the region, Kikuchi Onsen is relatively new. Having been discovered only 60 years ago, there are 10 hot springs ready for exploring in this former castle town.
If you’re looking for the secret to perfect skin, you might just find it here. The waters of Kikuchi are known for its skin care essence-like consistency that locks in moisture and hydrates skin. Why not make this bath part of your beauty routine, or at least try it once — you’ll see a difference!