Located further west of Kyushu in Oita Prefecture, and sitting at the foot of the stunning twin-peaked Mount Yufu, Yufuin Onsen town consists of a smattering of old-school/authentic as well as slightly more contemporary Japanese inns, and is a classic in the eyes of Japanese residents.
It’s been a much-loved destination for domestic tourists for years, and is now slowly making its way onto the ‘must-do’ list for westerners who love the feel of Japan’s slow-moving countryside and exploring small towns full of character.
Yufuin Onsen rose to popularity due to a variety of reasons, with one major one being its unique town layout. Unlike most onsen towns that have a singular strip on which most ryokans are located and there is a prominent town centre, here at Yufuin Onsen, the onsens are sprinkled around the area within the smaller streets and alleys, with small restaurants, cafes, gift shops and bakeries taking up the real estate on the main road.
This creates quite a different atmosphere to regular onsen towns, making it seem like you’re visiting a funky suburb just outside of the city or a small boutique town.
There are actually quite a few activities to do within this town itself, and its easy to access location (that’s smack bang in between a few other popular destinations!) means that you can split your day between exploring the small town and visiting surrounding areas as well.
Not only that, the gorgeous mountain peaks surrounding the town as well as the rolling hills in the distance and the grass fields that extend into the horizon make for one of the most picturesque onsens towns you’ll visit! Driving to and around this area is a breeze, so we highly recommend you book in a vehicle and plan your itinerary for Yufuin Onsen stat!
How to Get to Yufuin Onsen
As Yufuin Onsen is located amongst a plethora of other tourist destinations, we’ll list below the most popular routes to get to this onsen town:
- From Beppu: There is a Kamenois Bus goes from Beppu Station to Yufuin Station in 50-minutes and costs 900-yen one way. Otherwise, you can catch a train from Beppu to Oita and transfer there for Yufuin. This trip will take 80-minutes and cost 1,110 yen. Beppu is a slightly more developed and thus popular onsen town nearby, which is a great base to explore Yufuin.
- From Fukuoka, there is a direct bus that takes you straight to Yufuin in 2.5 hours, costing 2,880 yen for a one-way trip.
- From either Tokyo or Osaka, the easiest way is if you get to Beppu, and access Yufuin Onsen from there. Flights are from 7,000 yen from each major city, and take 120 or 60 minutes respectively.
If you are ok to drive, we also recommend you to rent a car and enjoy the freedom of going everywhere you want.
Where to Stay in Yufuin Onsen
This stunning ryokan is the epitome of timeless and contemporary class. It’s got all the best features of a traditional Japanese inn (timber frames, wooden tatami mats, wide windows, shoji sliding doors, bamboo tree views, clean onsens), fused with westernized modern principles such as wide-open spaces, raised futon bedding, classic and comfy furniture, and super tall ceilings.
There is always an air of cleanliness, purity, and serenity at Ikkoten, and you can bet you’ll wake up never wanting to leave. It boasts a well-equipped bar on-site, free private parking, and a gorgeous manicured garden. It offers a gorgeous common onsen for its guests to use, private bathrooms, and a private onsen with certain room bookings.
Why Guests Love It: Some guests claim that it’s the best experience they’ve ever had in Japan, whilst others wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this place to their family and friends. The common area got quite a bit of attention, where you can comfortable listen to music, drink tea, check out the old historical books, and listen to old-school CDs. There are breathtaking views from the onsen during the day, and at night, you can actually see the stars.
Book It Now: Ikkoten Ryokan
For a super comfortable yet traditional stay in Yufuin Onsen, give Hoteiya Ryokan a go. It’s the prime example of a unique yokan within an onsen town, with its multiple gorgeous indoor and outdoor hot spring baths, location within the lush greenery surrounding Yufuin, large and spacious rooms, which offer massive windows and wall-to-ceiling doors, and private rock baths which can be reserved at the reception.
This accommodation even has thatched roofs! It’s best feature though, has got to be its location – it’s literally only a 5-minute bus ride from Yufuin Station, and that bus ride is free if you’re a staying guest at the ryokan! There are plenty of rooms to choose from, so whether you’re a small party of two, or require a room to fit an entire family, Hoteiya definitely has options.
Why Guests Love It: The location is absolutely fantastic, close to the main walking strip of Yufuin. The ryokan also lights up a fire every night in the communal room for guests swing by, make some popcorn and have a drink on the house.
Book It Now: Hoteiya Ryokan
Now that you know how to get to Yufuin and where to stay, let’s discover the best things to do in Yufuin Onsen!
Yufudake (Mount Yufu)
Standing at 1,583m high, Mount Yufu is an adventurous yet relatively easy hike for those who love the outdoors and great views. To get to the top takes around 2-2.5 hours, and the terrain varies from flat to a good amount of incline (but this is closer up to the top).
Once you actually reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with gorgeous 360-degree views of the surrounding area, all the way to Beppu Bay and Kunisaki. We highly recommend this hike if you’re an active person. Pack along a delicious picnic and settle down at the top for a therapeutic picnic experience you won’t be able to get anywhere else.
- Address: Yufuincho Kawakami, Yufu, Oita 879-5102, Japan
- Access: You can easily catch a bus from Yufuin Station for 15-minutes to the base of Yufudake.
Yufuin Trickart Meikyukan Museum
The number of museums and galleries at Yufuin Onsen can be quite surprising for some – it’s littered with them! One of the more popular ones (a fan favourite!) would be the Trickart Museum. It’s a super fun gallery that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. It uses camera perception to play tricks on the human eye, distorting images and humans to look way larger/smaller than what they actually are!
The art itself is based on an older-style of painting called Tromp-L’oeil and its quite entertaining to look at. If you’re in the market for a few hours of good fun, and you have a larger group, or kids you need to entertain, then we reckon this would be one of the better options to choose. It’s also pretty close and relatively affordable so why not!
- Address: Japan, 〒879-5102 Oita, Yufu, Yufuincho Kawakami, 3001-8 NAYA1・２F
- Hours: 9:30am – 5:00pm
- Cost: Adult: 880 yen, Child: 660 yen
Explore Yu no Tsubo Kaido (Main Street)
The main street of Yufuin Onsen is a great way to explore the area. It starts from Yufuin Station and ends up at Lake Kinrin, and will take roughly 30-minutes to walk from one end to the other.
However, if we’re going to be honest, we’d say it’ll more likely be 1-2 hours, with all the stops you’ll be making along the way. Some of the cutest souvenir shops sit on this road, as do some of the best bakeries, cafes, and restaurants.
Here, you’ll be able to sample purindora (dorayaki, but with a pudding filling instead of red bean), famous Yufuin croquettes, a sweet creamy cheese pudding (this is at Milch!), sweet fresh juice, swiss roll cakes, and so much more. We actually found Yufuin Onsen town to be full of amazing culinary delights so when you do visit, come on an empty stomach!
Address: Japan, 〒879-5102 Oita, Yufu
SNOOPY Tea House
For fans of Snoopy and Charlie Brown, you absolutely cannot miss this adorable café that offers specialty dishes and drinks that are in theme. Snoopy is an incredibly popular and much-loved character in Japan, so you can imagine the number of visitors this place receives!
Some of the best dishes and drinks you can order here include Snoopy latte art, a jelly-based dessert called ‘anmitsu’, a sweet red bean soup with delicious freshly made mochi called shiratama zenzai, and multiple other desserts. For those who want something unique, their popular hamburger omurice comes out in the shape of Snoopy’s head!
This is one of the cutest themed cafes in the area, definitely worth a visit. The only problem is, the menu is actually quite extensive so you might have a hard time deciding what to get!
- Address: 1524-27 Yufu, Oita 879-5102, Japan
- Hours: 9:30am – 5:30pm
Explore Yufuin Floral Village
This quaint little floral village, inspired by Cotswold in English, is made up of small dainty alleys, gorgeous cobblestone footpaths, and architecture that’s reminiscent of a time long ago – they all make for fantastic photo opportunities!
The village itself is not just an area for photos, but also hosts a smattering of shops and restaurants that you can explore and dine in, providing you with the full experience of the old-world theme. It’s not a truly large area, so you can leisurely walk around and enjoy the place in just under an hour.
For fans of Studio Ghibli, there’s another special reason why you might enjoy this place: it’s actually home to a homey café created directly from “Kiki’s Delivery Service”, a popular movie made by the heavyweight studio in 1989. If you are an anime fan, check out more anime related places in Japan here: Anime in Real Life >>
Whilst it might seem mute to be visiting an English-inspired village in Japan, there are still slight touches and nuances that are distinctly Japanese, such as the owl and cat cafes that you will come across. One word to describe the Yufuin Onsen Floral Village is adorable.
- Address: 1503-3 Yufuincho Kawakami, Yufu, Oita 879-5102, Japan
- Hours: 9:30am – 5:30pm
Eat The Local Delicacy, Yufu Mabushi, at Yufu Mabushi Shin
One of our favourite things to do is explore new places all over the world…and of course, get a taste of local delicacies! There’s nothing quite as telling about a town as the local dish it’s loud and proud of, and for anyone visiting Yufuin, that means getting yourself down to Yufu Mabushi Shin and lining up for a delicious serving of Yufu mabushi.
The dish itself is a compilation of a few things: a bunch of delicious ‘tsukemono’ sides that look as though they’ve been crafted with love and care (including pickled greens, yuzu paste, wasabi, onion, etc), a ceramic bowl of rice (with the bottom burnt…it’s part of the dish!) that’s topped with meat of your choice (Oita Bungo beef – this is the most popular, Yufuin eel, or Toyo shamo chicken), and a bowl of steaming soup stock.
There are actual steps to eating this properly, so here goes:
- First, you take a few bits of the meat over the rice, and get a taste for what the dish is.
- You then move to your tsukemono and add in whatever you think will enhance the dish to your liking. Mix this well!
- Lastly, when you’re down to your last portion of the meal, pour the soup stock into your bowl and finish off the meal.
This entire experience is meant to give you a plethora of varying flavours and textures of the same dish. We highly recommend giving this restaurant a go. However, it does tend to get very busy, so you will most likely need to line up.
- Address: 1558 Yufuincho Kawakami, Yufu, Oita 879-5102, Japan
- Access: It’s less than 20-minutes from the station on foot.
- Hours: 11:00am – 4:00pm, 5:30pm – 9:00pm (last order at 8:00pm)
- Price: roughly 2,000 – 3,000 yen
Yufuin Onsen is a pleasant surprise for many people, and we can totally see why: with a heap of gorgeous old-style ryokans to choose from that offer their own public and private hot spring options, a wildly long list of restaurants and cafes that visitors have raved on about, a location that’s close enough to other towns but also surrounded by epic mountains, and a vibe that’s both exciting and relaxed, this would be a great choice of an onsen town for almost any type of traveler.