Kurokawa Onsen

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Kurokawa Onsen (쉷) is one of Japan's most attractive hot spring towns, located in the middle of Kyushu about 20 kilometers north of Mount Aso. Well coordinated efforts by the town to maintain a pleasant, traditional atmosphere have kept Kurokawa free of the massive concrete hotels, neon advertisements and loud colors that are encountered in many of Japan's other resort towns.

Instead, Kurokawa's townscape is dominated by natural colors and materials, wooden buildings, earthen walls, stone stairs and a river flowing through. The town center, located in a forested valley, is compact and easily explored on foot, except for a few ryokan which are located less centrally.

The town's lanes are lined by ryokan, public bath houses, attractive shops and cafes, a small shrine and bridges that lead over the river directly to ryokan entrances. A walk through town is particularly enjoyable in yukata and geta sandals provided by one's ryokan. An information center, where maps and other information can be obtained, is also found in the town center.

Kurokawa is not only known for its attractive town, but also for the outstanding outdoor baths (rotenburo) of its ryokan some of which are located right besides a gushing river or impress by their large sizes. The larger baths with good views tend to be located a little bit outside of the town center, while some of the more central ryokan attract with smaller but historic baths, which were already enjoyed by the feudal lords of nearby Kumamoto Castle.

While staying guests naturally have the opportunity to enjoy their own ryokan's baths as often as they wish, it is also possible for overnight visitors and daytrippers to explore any other bath in town during daytime and engage in a so called Rotemburo Meguri ("tour of outdoor baths").

For this purpose, a wooden pass (tegata) is sold for 1300 yen, providing admission to the baths of three different ryokan of one's choice (valid for up to six months). It is available at the information center and the over twenty participating ryokan. Alternatively, the cost is 500 yen per bath. Inquire at the information center for eventual closures on the day of your visit.

In addition to the ryokan baths, Kurokawa has two very simple, unmanned public bath houses with small indoor baths: The Jizoyu public bath in the very town center has small, gender separated baths (200 yen per person), while the Anayu public bath house, a few steps up along the river, has a small, mixed bath (100 yen per person).

Below is a list of some of Kurokawa's best baths:

Daytime Hours: 8:30 to 21:00
Daytime Admission: 500 yen
Overnight Stay: From 16,000 yen per person including 2 meals
One of the best riverside baths in Japan, Yamamizuki's outdoor bath is located in the woods next to a picturesque mountain river. One of the pools used to be mixed, but all pools are now gender separated. Facilities are limited to a wooden changing room and some water bowls.

Daytime Hours: 8:30 to 21:00
Daytime Admission: 500 yen
Overnight Stay: From 16,000 yen per person including 2 meals
Located the farthest from the town center, almost three kilometers into the wooded hills, Hozantei offers another outstanding riverside bath surrounded by the forest in a pleasantly rustic atmosphere. The baths are gender separated.

Iyashi no Sato Kiyashiki
Daytime Hours: 8:30 to 21:00
Daytime Admission: 500 yen
Overnight Stay: From 14,000 yen per person including 2 meals
Despite its short history as a hot spring establishment (founded in 1989), Kiyashiki and its baths feel very rustic and traditional. There is a nice variety of pools including an indoor bath, a wooden tub, a standing bath and a large outdoor bath surrounded by thick foliage. The facilities are gender separated except for the large outdoor bath which is mixed.

Daytime Hours: 8:30 to 21:00
Daytime Admission: 500 yen
Overnight Stay: From 17,000 yen per person including 2 meals
Kurokawaso features a huge outdoor bath that is surrounded by trees and has some views onto a cliff face. Additionally, there is a smaller outdoor pool and a spacious indoor bath. All bathing facilities are gender separated.

Oku no Yu
Daytime Hours: 8:30 to 21:00
Daytime Admission: 500 yen
Overnight Stay: From 16,000 yen per person including 2 meals
There is a wide variety of gender separated baths at Oku no Yu, including a steam sauna, a cave bath and a couple of outdoor pools with decent views of the river. Nonetheless, the presentation of the baths leaves something to be desired compared to some of the above listed locations.

Yamabiko Ryokan
Daytime Hours: 8:30 to 21:00
Daytime Admission: 500 yen
Overnight Stay: From 17,000 yen per person including 2 meals
There are two outdoor baths available to daytime visitors: a large one and a smaller one. One of the baths is women only, while the other is men only, alternating on a daily basis. The baths are surrounded by rocks and plants.

Sato no Yu Waraku
Daytime Hours: 8:30 to 21:00
Daytime Admission: 500 yen
Overnight Stay: From 33,000 yen per person including 2 meals
Waraku offers two baths to daytime visitors: an outdoor bath and a unique rock cave, which are alternated daily between use by men and women. Staying guests can enjoy private hot spring baths in their rooms.

Ratings:    best of the best    best of Japan    outstanding

Get There and Around

How to travel between Kurokawa Onsen and Fukuoka

By highway bus

A direct highway bus runs twice per day between Fukuoka (Hakata Station, Tenjin Bus Center and Fukuoka Airport) and Kurokawa Onsen. The one way trip takes around 2.5 hours, costs 3090 yen and is covered by the Sun Q Pass.

By train (for rail pass holders)

Kurokawa Onsen is not connected to the railway network, but Japan Rail Pass and Kyushu Rail Pass holders can save a few yen by boarding the above mentioned Fukuoka-Kurokawa highway bus at Hita instead of Hakata. Hita Station is accessed from Fukuoka's Hakata Station by direct limited express train (75 minutes, 3000 yen one way) or by local trains via Kurume (100 minutes, 1650 yen); both fully covered by the JR passes. The bus ride from Hita Bus Center to Kurokawa takes 70 minutes and costs 1850 yen. There are two buses per day.

Above fees and schedules are subject to change. For the current yen exchange rate, click here.


Kurokawa's town center is small and compact and can be easily navigated by foot. The exception are a few ryokan such as the Yamamizuki and Hozantei, which are located one to three kilometers outside of the town center. Daytime visitors without a rental car seem to have no choice but to walk to these more remote ryokan, while staying guests are provided with a pick up service.

Nearby locations with car rental outlets are Kumamoto, Kumamoto Airport, Beppu and Oita.

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Page last updated: June 9, 2010