Why would one do a trip in January? Due to Corona, left over holiday was stacking up, and everything not taken by end of February would be cut off - so I had to go in the cold season.
Where to go? The north of Japan is coldest and has snow by January, Okinava in the south is only reachable via plane or ship, so I aimed at Kyushu. Main reagion I wanted to visit: the Yufuin area, known for Onsen, Japanese bathes. A recent survey lists Yufuin among the top 10 Japanese onsen areas. Here is a map and the numbers of pictures I took, Kyushu is on the left.
Getting there from Tokyo: plane was out of question for environment reasons, and as trains are great. I took the Shinkansen highspeed train to Hakata at the North of Kyushu, 1100km in under 5 hours is impressive. Of course, I got a ‘lunch pack’ at the train station, called obentou. These are available in many flavours. On the map you can even see at which spot I took the picture of the obentou.
The “Yufuin no mori” train runs from Hakata, a special train which only operates in Kyushu. The train is aimed at tourism: sweets only available on that train are sold, the interiour is nice, staff is offering to take pictures and chatty.
When booking the stay, I was taken back and forth. Ryokan are the traditional Japanese style hotels one associates with Yufuin, these would be the canonical choice. Yet, when I had seen ryokan houses in Touhoku, I understood these as cold and not really good for winter. Hotels would be more likely to be built solid with warmer rooms. I decided for the ryokan, and my stay turned out to be a quite new building, windows even have 2 layers of glass. The room floor had tatami mats, the hotel had a great inhouse bath where one could from the pool see Mount Yufuin, the mountain watching over the city. Also the breakfast was just fantastic.
The day after arrival I wanted to hike mnt Yufuin, described as ‘90min hike’. Just walking over to the foot of the mountain took 2 hours, could have been quicker if I had taken a bus there. It was cloudy that day, the mountain top constantly in a cloud. After starting to walk up, trails turned out to have snow and ice, eventually it started to snow. I do not own requipment like spikes for the shows, and 20min before the summit I decided to return. I had late lunch in the city, and got a great small cheese cake with caramel flavour, which I ate while drinking green tea at the ryokan.
Sightseeing of Yufuin on the next day. There are a few long streets with shops, art atelies, museums. Towards north I wanted to hike Hidake/飛岳. Android app Osmand (which uses openstreetmap material) showed 2 pathes to the summit. The one from the north would mostly have been along a road, so I opted into the south one - and 10min before that summit again had the way vanish/could not advance further. Ah well.
Kyushu is well known for growing mandarines, and indeed they were cheaper
here. There is also Kabosu/かぼす,
a kind of lemon which the Oita area in the east of Kyushu is known for.
The ryokan also had local food for breakfast, one day a jely made from Kabosu.
The next stop was Oita: reachable in ~1 hour via local train. Oita is bigger than Yufuin, near the sea. I discovered a restaurant with Sri lanka food, that was so good that I ate both days of my stay in Oita there. The tourism office at the train station offers maps with walks through the city, these were nice.
The Tenkai hot spring is really great: while soaking in the hot water, you can enjoy views of the sea. The body soap available for washing contained also coal, so it was black. 炭 was written on the label, the area is known for coal.
Kokura and trip back
After that, I did spend a night in Kokura/Kitakyushu. The railway museum is quite nice. At the hotel breakfast, I got Karashi mentaiko/ 辛子明太子, another speciality of Kyushu: marinated salted cod roe. The Corona infection numbers were then going up, it was unclear which counter measures would get decided, so after a stop in Osaka I went back to Tokyo.
One day after I had left Kokura, the whole area Oita/Yufuin/Kokura were hit by an earthquake, magnitude 5+ in the Oita area.
The pictures of the trip are here.
Last modified on 2022-01-25