Yufuin 湯布院

This issue, we’re taking a break from the usual “Fukuoka spotlight” because we want to hop over the border. Fukuoka has its fair share of winter delights, from fresh seafood and hot Hakata ramen in the capital city, to small hot spring towns throughout the prefecture. But none of those hot springs can rival Oita’s Yufuin, which is where we really want to go when the cold winds blow off the Sea of Japan.

Yufuin can be reached directly via bus or train from Fukuoka city, making day trips possible, but why rush? Yufuin offers much more in terms of food and entertainment than it did a decade or so ago. Some people decry the development but Yufuin seems to be growing and modernizing at a sustainable pace.

The many hot spring options are so obvious as to not even need much commentary. Overlooked are the town’s other small charms. The Marc Chagall Kinrin-ko Museum will surprise many visitors—what’s a small, rural town doing with this museum?!—while the many small galleries and showrooms you’ll discover on a leisurely stroll can occupy an entire day.

Music lovers may want to drop into Creeks, a lovely café and gallery that often hosts live music, sometimes from fairly well known acts like Nabowa. If you have a thirst for beer, Yufuin has its own decent craft brewery; if it’s for sake, you’ll not be disappointed by local offerings. Foodies will delight, too, in local pickled goods and other agricultural products.

Wander away from the central part of town, and you will discover some old shrines and temples. Better leave the hike up Mt. Yufu for warmer months. And doesn’t a soaking in a hot spring sound better in the winter anyway?






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