Kurokawa Onsen, located in Kumamoto Prefecture about 20 km north of Mt. Aso, is considered to be one of the best hot spring resort towns in Japan. Although it is not as well known as some other resort areas such as Hakone, it is definitely worth a visit if traveling through Kyushu.
The appeal of Kurokawa Onsen is it’s tranquil, quaint atmosphere and it's natural outdoor hot springs called rotenburo. Since there are so many different kinds of hot springs in the area you can purchase a nyuto tegata. The nyuto tegata is a hot spring pass that costs 1200 yen, gives you access to 3 hot springs, and is valid for 6 months. They are available at the Kurokawa Spa Hotel Association Information Center and remember to pick up a map to see all the participating hotels and inns that accept the nyuto tegata.
One really unique and cool hot spring to check out is at the Shinmeikan. The hot spring is located inside a cave and it’s mineral rich water is said to be good for blood circulation. However be warned, the water is extremely hot so resist the urge to do any cannonballs in the water and take care getting in. Since the hot spring is outdoors you’ll also have to undress outside which can be strange for some people, but there is a barrier in front of the changing area blocking the view so don’t worry about passersby. It’s definitely worth checking out and you’ll feel invigorated and refreshed after soaking in the hot spring.
If you’re staying overnight in an inn or ryokan take advantage of at least having dinner there. Many dinners in ryokans are fresh, seasonal multi-course meals that are extremely high quality in both taste and presentation. Also put on that yukata that the inn will provide for you and walk around the town to get that authentic feel of a traditional Japanese resort town. If you’re just on a day trip there are many great restaurants in town, I recommend Warokuya for some great Japanese curry and Patisserie Roku for some baked goodies.
Whether it’s just a day trip or overnight, Kurokawa Onsen is definitely worth a visit if you’re looking for a place to relax, have great food, and get away from it all.