You say Yufu, I say Yufu
You'll see Yufuin written as both 由布院 and 湯布院. The names are pronounced the same, but the "湯" (hot water) of the second version is not just a marketing trick: in 1955, what was then the town of Yufuin (由布院) merged with nearby Yunohira (湯平), keeping its name but adopting its smaller neighbor's kanji as a memento.
A hot spring town with a difference, Yufuin's claim to fame is not just lots of hot water (the town claims the second highest outflow in all Japan), but its arty vibe with avant-garde galleries, traditional crafts and fancy cafés. Consciously planned on European spa towns, there's a frisson of fashionable foreignness to it all and the town is often compared with Karuizawa, the favorite retreat of Tokyo's elite. Add in a scenic location in a lush green valley, with steam bursting from the hillsides and the double-peaked Yufu-dake (1584m) volcano overlooking it all, and it's not hard to see why Yufuin welcomes more than three million visitors annually.
Tourist information centerEdit
The Yufuin Hot Springs Tourist Information office (84-2446; 09:00-19:00) inside the train station has some information in English, including a detailed walking map.
Yufuin is in the center of Oita Prefecture, 25 km from its comparatively downmarket spa town twin Beppu. It can be visited as a day trip from Beppu or Fukuoka, or en route to Mount Aso in Kumamoto Prefecture.
On arrival in Yufuin, there areof large luggage lockers at the front side of the station, and opposite it. However, these are fairly popular and might fill up quickly. An alternative is to head to the Yufuin Hot Springs Tourist Information office just next the train station, which has further lockers as well as a staffed luggage storage facility. Yet another option is to drop your bags at the Yufuin Chikki shop opposite the train station, which will deliver them to any hotel in town (and later back to the station) for ¥500 a pop. It also functions as a baggage storage service for ¥300-500 per bag per day.
The nearest airport is in Oita, 55 minutes away by direct bus [dead link] (6 times/day, ¥1,550). Oita has flights to Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Seoul. The nearest major airport is Fukuoka, which also has direct buses to Yufuin (1:45, 11 times/day, ¥2,880).
Yufuin Station (由布院駅) is the main train station and serves as a central point for starting off in Yufuin. The best way to arrive is by the JR Yufuin no Mori limited express, a destination in itself with retro-styled wood and brass fittings and a buffet car with panoramic windows — book ahead. The train runs 3 times/day to/from Fukuoka (2 hr 15 min, ¥4,550) and once daily to/from Oita (50 min) and Beppu (1 hour). There are additional direct services on the more ordinary Yufu DX and Yufu expresses, and cheaper local trains (change in Kurume required).
Get off at the Oita Expressway Yufuin Interchange. In peak tourist seasons, the most direct route to Kinrinko Lake (Route 206) often experiences severe traffic. Due to this, it's advisable to detour to Minami Yufu and head toward the center of Yufuin instead. Specifically you'll want to get off the Interchange, take Route 210 towards Oita, and get on Route 11 in Minami Yufu.
Due to Yufuin's high elevation, you're required to use chains on the highways and mountain roads when there is snow.
Yufuin's major bus hub is the Yufuin Ekimae Bus Center (由布院駅前バスセンター), tucked away behind a souvenir shop in front of the station.
- If coming from Beppu: From Beppu Station's west exit, take the Kamenoi Bus "Yufuin" Liner. It takes approximately 1 hour. It also picks up from the Ferry Port (where ferries come in from Kansai) and takes approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.
- If coming from Fukuoka: Take the Kamenoi High Speed Bus "Yufuin". It's about 2 hours from Tenjin and 2 hours and 20 minutes from the Hakata Bus Terminal.
- If coming from Kumamoto: Take Kyushu Sanko Bus, the "Kujũ" Ōdan Bus. It's about 4 hours from Kumamoto Station and about 2 hours and 15 minutes from Aso Station.
Public transport options in Yufu are limited. For the average visitor, the most useful is the roughly hourly Kamenoi bus route 36, which serves the train station, Yufumi-dori, Yunotsubo and the start of the Mt. Yufu hiking trail (由布登山口) on its way to Beppu and back.
The JR Kyudai Line lazily loops through the city, but aside from Yufuin station itself does not come close to the hot spring area.
By horse or rickshawEdit
Horse carriages (辻馬車 tsujibasha) leave Yufuin station every 30 minutes from 09:00 to 16://. The tour takes about 50 minutes and costs ￥1500. Rickshaws (jinrikisha) also operate around Yufuin station and Lake Kinrinko.
Yufuin can fairly easily be covered on foot. It's a leisurely 1.5-km stroll from the train station to Lake Kinrinko via Yufumi-dōri and Yunotsubo Kaidō. The surrounding area boasts many beautiful rural landscapes, and there are many walking routes you can take through them. The Tourist Information Center publishes maps that you can refer to as you walk.
- Yufumi-dōri (由布見通り) - The name of the street that continues from Yufuin Station to Yufu-dake. You can see Yufu-dake from almost anywhere on this street.
- Yunotsubo Kaidō (湯の坪街道) - An attractively retro-styled shopping street that goes from Yufumi-dōri to Lake Kinrinko, this is one of the prime attractions in town and packed during the day with tour groups. There are many restaurants and souvenir shops, including a Ghibli store.
- 1 Lake Kinrinko (金鱗湖). A small lake (pond, really) at the east end of town, full of fish and flanked with art galleries, tea houses and the Shitanyu bath (below). Walk from the station to here, and you'll have seen most of what the town has to offer. free.
- Yufuin Art Museum (由布院美術館)
- Norman Rockwell Yufuin Art Gallery (ノーマン・ロックウェル湯布院美術館)
- 2 Oike Yuusuigun (男池湧水群). Waterfall deep in the forest ¥100.
- Tenso Shrine (天祖神社)
- 1 Hike to Mount Yufu (hop in the hourly bus connecting Yufuin and Beppu stations and get off at Yufutozanguchi (由布登山口), the trailhead). You can hike to the top of this volcano (由布岳 Yufudake), see the crater and have a very nice view of the surroundings. Allow two hours to reach the crater (from 800m to 1500m). Then there is a junction, the left path leads to the west peak (由布岳西峰 Yufudake 1583m), the right one to the east peak (由布岳東峰 1580m). The east peak is an easy, although steep, walk but the west peak requires more climbing, there are chains to help you. There is also a path connecting the two peaks on the north of the crater but be cautious this section is more technical and requires some climbing knowledge, it is highly recommanded to use the south trail for beginners. Be prepared for this long exhausting walk, all the common sense of Hiking applies. Allow 4 to 5 hours in total depending on which peaks you climb. There is nothing on the way, be sure to bring your own food and enough water.
- Yufuin Station Footbath (由布院駅の足湯)
- Yufuin Onsen (由布院温泉)
- Yunotsubo Onsen (ゆのつぼ温泉)
- Shitanyu (下ん湯)
- 2 Yunohira Onsen (湯平温泉). A small traditional hot springs village 15 kilometers away
- Kinshō Korokke (金賞コロッケ), 湯布院町川上1511-1 (Yunotsubo Kaidō). A simple deep-fried snack of minced meat and mashed potato it may be, but this particular "Gold Medal Croquette" was once chosen as the tastiest in all Japan. In addition to the original (¥160), there's a wide range of various flavors and toppings.
- Rampusha (洋灯舎)
- Tenjousajiki (天井棧敷)
- Corbeille (コルベイユ)
- 1 Yu no Takean (湯の岳庵). Great variety of Japanese food: Toriten, Grilled beef, sashimi. ¥4000.
- 2 Yufu Mabushi Shin (由布まぶし心). Grilled beef served on rice.
- 3 Shunsai Hinaya (旬菜鄙屋) (Inside a hotel called Hananomai (はなの舞)). Japanese beef served in boxes. Reservation necessary. 2150 yen.
- 4 Shizen Yuudo (オーガニックキッチン＆cafe自然食ゆうど). Organic food and vegetables, in the middle of the countryside.
- [dead link] Yufuin Country Road Youth Hostel (湯布院カントリーロードユースホステル), 由布市湯布院町川上441-29, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 16:00-21:00, check-out: 10:00. Breakfast and dinner are available. Includes access to the small, pleasant onsen. Very limited access by bus. Take a taxi or walk 40 minutes from the JR station (some uphill). The owner offers a free ride to the station in the morning. Dorm ¥3435.
- 1 Kamenoi Bessou, 由布市湯布院町川上2633-1, ☏ . Japanese-style double with futon from ¥82380, Japanese-style double with bed from ¥88860, Western-style double ¥71580.