Arguably one of Kyushu’s most prized gems, Kurokawa Onsen is a favourite with Japanese people due, not only to the variety of hot spring baths offered, but also to a secluded location high up in the lush Aso mountain range, in the majestic shadow of its active central volcano.
Understandably, a lot of people find themselves overwhelmed when they realize how spoiled they are for choice. A quick rule of thumb is that the onsen that offer more spectacular views and are more spacious are generally located outside of the town center. The more historic and rustic onsen in town, though boasting a less impressive view, offer an insight into the culture of bathing in Japan.
These hot spring baths found among the well-preserved, picturesque streets are said to have been frequented by the powerful feudal lords of Kumamoto Castle – so you know you’re in good company.
While there’s a plethora of baths at your disposal, notable ones include the Yamamizuki – an outdoor bath that offers soakers a stunning view of the riverside flanked by the mountains. The Iyashi no Sato Kiyashiki with its wooden tubs, indoor bath, standing bath, and a large outdoor bath shrouded by greenery is literal and cultural onsen immersion. These baths also act as ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn); you can rest for the evening after a multi-course, perfect Japanese meal, and a massage for that bit of extra luxury.
Kurokawa gives visitors the option of purchasing a tegata (wooden pass) for 1300 yen that allows you to access any three of the participating onsen of your choice. It’s a steal, considering that most baths costs about 500 yen each on average. The best part is that, since the onsen are open to the public for daytime bathing, you can go around in your yukata robe and wooden geta sandals dipping in whichever one takes your fancy on a Rotemburo Meguri or “Bath Tour”.
There are also many boutique shops and restaurants scattered throughout town. Be sure to try Aso’s milk – it’s deliciously creamy – since the region is known for its exceptional dairy produce.