Just ten kilometers from its larger and more famous counterpart, Beppu, the onsen resort of Yufuin in Oita prefecture offers a fantastic selection of hot spring baths, trendy boutique cafes, and picture-perfect scenery. From resting your tired bones in one of the outdoor baths to taking in the gorgeous autumn foliage at Lake Kinrinko, this sleepy town – literally nestled in a mountainous valley – deserves at least a day trip, if not more, when travelling around Kyushu.
Lake Kinrinko is the main star of the scenic show, located about 1.5 kilometres away from Yufuin Station. There’s a small shrine located in the vicinity as well as many charming little shops where you can purchase meat and dairy farmed from Oita’s Kuju Highlands, a mountain range that draws visitors all year round with its show of seasonal flowers.
Yufuin is backed by Mt. Yufu, a volcano that stands 5,195 feet tall. Because of its double peak, it’s fondly known as the Mt. Fuji of Oita amongst the locals. To get the very best of the autumn colours, try climbing the mountain in November.
Film fanatics will definitely enjoy Yufuin in August when the Yufuin Film Festival is held. It’s Japan’s oldest film festival to date, going back to the 1970s.
For fans of Studio Ghibli, there’s a little bakery dedicated to Kiki’s Delivery Service located in Yufuin Floral Village. You can also purchase a range of items in the village ranging from perfumes to Hello Kitty memorabilia.
The Kyushu Yufuin Mingei Mura, roughly translated as the Folk Craft Village, is a good place to stop if you’re interested in learning the basics of various arts and crafts such as tie-dying and making Japanese washi paper. You can learn to make pottery here as well.
Although the town of Yufuin is small and can be explored in a day, it’s worthwhile to spend the night at one of the ryokan and experience the authenticity of small-town, rural Japan.