Kurokawa Onsen: Pristine Hot Spring Town in the Mountains

Kurokawa Onsen is located about 20 km (12.5 mi.) from Mt. Aso, in the northern part of Kumamoto Prefecture and central part of Kyushu. Situated in a forested valley with a peaceful mountain stream running through the middle, it is considered to be one of the most attractive hot spring resort towns in Japan. Its pleasant appearance and atmosphere are in large part due to restrictions on neon signs, large hotels and other detrimental developments that have turned numerous pleasant hot spring towns into gaudy, concrete-covered eyesores in other parts of the country–Kurokawa Onsen is a quiet town, interspersed with small streets that pass quietly between wooden houses and through stands of leafy trees.

The main attraction of the town is, of course, the hot spring baths. Some of the hot spring facilities were visited in the past by feudal lords, and certain outdoor baths offer views of the peaceful river as well as its waterfalls and riverbank greenery. Day visitors can enter ryokan baths separately for 500 yen each, or purchase a wooden pass for entry to three different ryokan’s baths–the pass is valid for six months, so you can use it on a subsequent visits. The baths are mostly located in the small town center, which is easy to traverse on foot and is filled with an assortment of interesting little shops and eateries. There are also two public indoor bathhouses: they cost only 100-200 yen to use, but their short walls seem to provide little protection from the prying eyes of passersby, and their utilitarian designs can’t match the high-class feel of the ryokan baths. There are also some foot baths around town, including one that is free of charge. Note that all baths require day visitors to bring their own towels (or purchase one before entering).

There are two round trips per day on highway buses between Fukuoka City (Hakata and Tenjin bus terminals) and Kurokawa Onsen (3,000 yen for one-way and 5,400 yen for round-trip; 2:45 each way; covered by the SUNQ Pass), and the bus stop at Kurokawa Onsen is relatively close to the town center. A handful of the popular ryokan are located a few kilometers outside of the town center, but they do offer pick-up services for lodging guests. Visitors staying at a ryokan can also stroll comfortably around town in yukata robes and sandals, which are provided by the lodging facility.

Japan Guide’s sightseeing information page lists a number of popular hot spring facilities in Kurokawa Onsen.

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