For a thousand years, the mineral-rich waters of Kyushu have healed and soothed emperors, samurai, and the public.
The volcanic landscape lends itself perfectly to an abundance of hot springs, which have earned Kyushu the title of ‘Japan’s Onsen Island’. Whether travellers prefer rustic charm, historical retreats or modern luxury, discover it all with this ultimate guide to wellness in Kyushu.
Japan’s Onsen Island – Rustic Charm
This hot spring town at the southern top of Kagoshima is famous for its sunamashi, or sandbathing. Volcanic hot springs line the coast of Ibusuki, warming the sands to 50-55° Celsius. First, guests wear a light cotton yukata and lie in a shallow depression on the beach. An attendant protects guests faces with a towel and shovels the warm sand over them until buried up to the neck in the sand, with only a head exposed to air. After ten minutes, guests emerge warm and relaxed.
Enjoy sweeping bay views from an exquisite cobalt blue pool in the cosy Ichinoide Kaikan. Featuring two bathing areas – the aptly named Scenic Bath and the Golden Bath – the ryokan is known for it’s delicious culinary offering. Following a leisurely soak, enjoy lunch at the onsite restaurant, which serves shokado bento (various small dishes artfully presented inside a black lacquered box) between May and August and dangojiru (dumpling soup with vegetables) between September and April.
An authentic onsen in Saga, Yoyokaku Onsen is a magnificent establishment with a well-kept garden of old pine trees and a serene, elegant ambience. With only 20 rooms, the onsen is intimate and just a few minutes’ walk from the beach.
Japan’s Onsen Island – Historical Retreats
At the foot of Mt. Yufu, Yufuin Onsen is a highly walkable resort town with shopping streets, cafes, galleries and a wide choice of hot springs and hotels to choose from. The area is known for mist which forms in the valley and on Lake Kinrin. Mt. Yufu towers above the town, offering a scenic skyline from many of the outdoor hot springs.
This charming, traditional town has been a popular hot spring resort for over 300 years. Tucked away in the misty Kuju mountain range, the area is also ideal for hiking, with clearly marked trails through the mountains. About an hour on foot from the town centre, the Hirano Dai Plateau Viewing Point is a popular spot to see the sunset over Mt Aso. Most of the hot spring inns are dotted around the Tanohara River.
Boasting more than 100 public baths, the hot spring resort town of Beppu is one of Japan’s most famous onsen getaways. A step above the rest, historic inn Okamotoya dates back to 1877 and is known for its healing milky sulfuric waters. Offering both indoor and outdoor pools featuring exquisitely pale green shades of celadon, Okamotoya’s inn is home to thatched straw huts inside which crystals formed from the chemical reaction between onsen fumes and mineral-rich blue clay, which are harvested and used as bath salts and ingredients in other health and beauty products.
Japan’s Onsen Island – Modern Luxury
A luxury onsen retreat in the forests of Oita, Sanso Tensui translates to ‘Mountain Villa, Heavenly Waters’. With the inn’s spacious rooms, exquisite local cuisine and the staff’s warm hospitality, Sanso Tensui is an enchanting retreat with five private hot springs, four gender-segregated open-air baths and two indoor baths.
‘Tamatebako’ Outdoor Hot Springs
One of Kyushu’s most relaxing and rejuvenating destinations, Tamatebako is home to luxurious open-air hot springs, as well as a Japanese style and western-style bath. The Japanese-style outdoor hot spring offers a stunning view of Mt. Kaimon and the East China Sea while the western spring has a clear view of Mt. Takeyama, locally known as ‘Snoopy Mountain’. A relaxing soak in these natural baths are said to heal the body and mind due to the high levels of sodium chloride in the water.
A stylist luxury inn, Sanso Murata features 12 guest houses and is located in the famous resort town of Yufuin with the gorgeous Mt. Yufu as a backdrop. Enjoy a stroll around the shops, museums, bars and café that makes this an ideal place to relax and rejuvenate.