A lot of stunning places remain unknown in Japan, especially from western tourists. Yufuin is one of them and the first of the 100 View of Japan that we are introducing.
Last updated: August 2018.
Located in Oita prefecture, 15 miles west from Beppu, Yufuin is a tiny spa resort and city. We were there as wwoofers for three weeks between September et October 2015 volunteering for an organic cafe and restaurant. Unfortunately Yufuin was hit in April 2016 by the earthquake that shaked the whole region. The inhabitants have had a hard time but managed to get through it, also thanks to solidarity.
Since then we came back in November 2017.
Yufuin, organic and cultural city
One thing will probably strike you after reaching Yufuin. While the tourists are already numerous in the tiny train station – just getting down from the classy sightseeing train Yufuinnomori – very few westerners could be seen (none of them when we were there). The spa resort is really famous among Chinese, Korean and, of course, Japanese, but seems to be almost unknown from the majority of European and American travelers.
As many Japanese touristic spots, Yufuin has some museums. Actually, far more than any place we have been too in Japan (except maybe Karuizawa), and definitely more than one can imagine at first sight. At the foot of Yufu mount stands the Marc Chagall museum, that one can observe from the kirinko lake.
Painting then, but also local craftworks are displayed in the Folk Craft Museum. History has also an important part with the Showa Retro Park where Showa era’s antique shops and houses have been recreated. Spirit of that time and also an impressive work of collecting can be observed at the Iwashita Collection. Many daily life products and toys from the previous eras are displayed, as well as an impressive number of old cars and motorcycles.
Last and not the least, Yufuin seems to be the right place to eat organic and local. In the Harappa cafe, 原っぱカフ, where we did volunteer for a while, the food is always local and made by a shifting team of chefs. The community restaurant is held by several families of the city. They produce an organic rice. The cafe is also a place for meeting among generations and it welcomes concerts and different kinds of local events. Following the 2016 Kumamoto earthquake special meal trays were sent out to isolated old people.
Yufuin’s onsen and souvenir shops
As an onsen resort Yufuin has many ryokan, many of whom are famous in the whole country. For us, the city was the first place where we had a long-time onsen experience, back in 2015. We were able to bath everyday in the private onsen of our apartment block.
Beside the thermal experience, Yufuin is more and more known for the main shopping street, Yunotsubo Kaido, where cute stuff, local specialties as Yufuin’s roll cakes and other yummy delicacies attract the crowds. Matcha ice cream eaters are numerous but for us the best bet were the Snoopy one… Also, do not forget to stop by the Ghibli souvenir shops.
Not far from these streets, the Yufuin Floral Village is definitely the most kawaii place of Yufuin. Tiny cottage-like shops are dedicated to Ghibli heroes or Harry Potter and Alice in Wonderland. Back in 2015 we were attracted by the owls that inhabit the Owl’s forest, along with squirrels, rabbits, hedgehogs and ducks. But remembering that made us feel concerned and sad for the beautiful wild birds and we will not go another time.
Enjoying Yufuin Beautiful Nature
To enjoy Yufuin’s great nature, one must simply wander about the streets in the center and then near the river, where most of the onsen resorts are. Walking along this river then leads to Kinrinko lake. The walk around the lake offers a nice view of the mountains. One of the best season to admire that place being definitely Fall.
Hiking in Yufuin
A few steps out the station are enough to be immediately pleased by Yufuin’s surroundings. The city is both well-known as a spa resort and as a shelter of nature where one can enjoy hiking to reach Mount Yufu. The mountain is famous for its particular shape of two peaks. By bus from the center one can access to the beginning of the path. Different levels of difficulty are available.
It took us between 3 and 4 hours to hike up and down. We have only been to the lowest of the two summit as we were very short in time and add to catch the last bus, around 5 pm.
Yufuin Secret River Valley
For the more adventurous (and those who have a car), there is another place to discover : the Yufu River Valley. An hour-driving is necessary to get there but it is worth it. Stuck between rocks, the river coming from the spa resort flows at the bottom of the gorge. It is better to take a pair of boots (or to be ready to walk barefoot in the river bed) and to wear something warm as the light and the heat are scarce down there.
Yufuin through B&W film camera
Throughout our travels in Japan, I (Aurelie) enjoy to sometimes shot with my old Canon film camera (yes, while bringing my digital material at the same time…). So here are some shots of Yufuin in black and white that I took when we first came there, in 2015.
How to get there?
Several flights are available from Tokyo (Narita or Haneda) and from the Kansai Airport to reach Oita airport (in Kunisaki), the closest to Yufuin. From there it is possible to take a direct bus. It is also possible to come from Fukuoka, Beppu, Aso, Kumamoto and Kurokawa, using by highway buses. By train, Yufuin is easy to reach thanks to the JR Main Kyudai Line from Oita or Hakata. Or for an unusual trip, just ride the Yufuin no mori (accessible with the JR Pass total and pass JR Kyushu) from Hakata.
A huge number of beautiful trains reaching Yufuin are uploaded on Youtube by Japanese enthusiasts.
Some bloggers have been spending some time in the tiny spa resort. Amond them, the travelers from Travelandbeyond.