Unzen Onsen is a charming hot spring town located in the Shimabara Peninsula, in Nagasaki Prefecture. It is named after Mount Unzen, an active volcano that has dominated the history of the Shimabara Peninsula throughout. Its successive eruptions have led to the formation of the land.
There are many hot spring towns in Japan but Unzen is famous for being that lost spot in nature you’d love to literally dive into. I absolutely loved the quiet and somewhat untamed wilderness of the area.
First of all, let’s look at everything you need to know to plan your stay in Unzen, including transportation and accommodation information. Then I’ll tell you where you need to go and what you shouldn’t miss!
How To Go To Unzen Onsen
The best way to get to Unzen is by bus. You can take direct buses to Unzen from the following 3 cities:
- From Nagasaki | 1h40-trip for 1850 yen (one way)
- From Isaya | 1h30-trip for 1400 yen (one way)
- From Shimabara | 50 minute-trip for 850 yen (one way)
To save money, you can buy the Unzen Shimabara Free Pass to travel around the peninsula. More information here.
Where To Stay In Unzen Onsen
If you happen to need a reason to visit Unzen, the ryokan Azumaen would be it. As you can see, it is located on Lake Oshidori’s shore and the views from your outdoor onsen will be outstanding!
Imagine stepping into a nice hot bath to relax while admiring this beautiful landscape. You’d have a hard time leaving your room.
If you’re a picky traveler still looking for better reasons to stay at Azumaen, I cannot stress how good their restaurant is. During our stay, we were treated to a real seafood feast! I can tell you your eyes would be as delighted as your taste buds.
A chef was even on our table to make us sushi. The dexterity and precision with which he prepared them were really impressive and everything was delicious!
Unzen Kyushu Hotel
The splendid ryokan Unzen Kyushu is in the center of the city, right next to the city bus station and Unzen Hell mentioned below.
It has beautiful rooms with refined interior design and architecture where you can enjoy beautiful views of the mountains in the area. It goes without saying that this Ryokan offers great onsen (natural hot spring baths).
The Best Things To Do In Unzen Onsen
The main attraction of the city is undoubtedly Unzen Hell (exact location here). Also called Unzen Jigoku, the natural hot springs there are heated by the volcanic activity of the region.
So you can see steam coming up everywhere, boiling water, and even a monster head-shaped rock. You’ll get a strong sulfurous smell as soon as you get near Unzen Hell. No wonder they call it hell!
As you may know, many Christians lived in Nagasaki. They were often persecuted by the Japanese government, especially during the 17th century. At that time, Japanese Christians were plunged directly into the boiling waters of Unzen Hell to be tortured into abandoning their faith. Isn’t that terrifying?
On a lighter note, today the steam from the springs is used to cook eggs.
You can see how this place looks like in this virtual tour:
The city’s ropeway is another attraction not to be missed in Unzen (located here). The round trip costs 860 yen and lasts about 10 minutes.
Departures are quite frequent, about every 15 to 20 minutes.
Once you get to Myokendake Station, you will be 1300 meters above sea level. Beautiful panoramic views of the entire area will be yours to enjoy.
If you’re more athletic and looking for tougher fun, there are hiking trails to explore without moderation!
If you’re a nature lover, take a walk along the lake Oshidori (exact location here), just in front of Azumaen Ryokan. The surrounding forest is beautiful and I was impressed by the diversity of birdlife there.
If you visit it in autumn, the red-orange leaves of the maple trees, Momiji as they are called, will blow you away.
Misoji-en Park (exact location here) is also a spot not to be missed. Every autumn, the trees of the park are illuminated at night. It’s a sight to be seen! If you visit Unzen at this time of the year, don’t miss it. Here is a virtual tour of the park in autumn:
Last but not least is another hot spring resort town located west of the Shimabara peninsula (location here). And yes, you read well, it is called Obama Onsen, the same name as the former president of the United States. There are some funny, Obama-themed local products to check out!
It should be on your way to Nagasaki so don’t forget to stop by! And it’s a seaside town with outstanding onsen there.
This trip to Unzen Onsen is over, people! Nice city, don’t you think? You really get to take a good, quiet break here and enjoy the beauty and authenticity of the area.
And if you are looking to visit more places in Kyushu, feel free to read these blog posts: Kyushu Japan.
See you soon, fellow explorers!