The tiny enclave of Kurokawa Onsen boasts a number of appealing lodging options but there is something special about Ryokan Sanga. Sitting outside of town in a cut in the valley, surround on all sides by towering pines, a night here is a memorable experience.
In autumn, the colorful maple leaves in the ryokan's courtyard will be the first thing to catch your eye. In the winter, you'll be greeted by the smell of wood smoke from the inn's warming fires. The polished floors of the lobby lead straight into a cozy lounge, where you are welcome to curl up with a book or a cup of tea and wile away the hours watching the snow fall. Or, retire to your room, where you can take tea and snacks at your table (with a kotatsu heater attached in the winter months) while enjoying views of the forest.
All of Ryokan Sanga's rooms are lovely, but if you can afford it, spring for the suites that have a hot spring bath attached. If you find the main outdoor tubs too hot for your liking, having the taps here allows you to control the temperature and enjoy an onsen bath at your own leisure.
Ryokan Sanga has several baths scattered throughout their ryokan complex. One or two can be reserved but the nicest are the two outdoor rotemburo. The women's bath (and possibly the men's as well, I couldn't check!) is at least partially covered so you can enjoy a soak even in inclement weather.
Like most ryokan, Sanga offers both dinner and breakfast and it's a treat not to be missed. Meals often consist of local mountain vegetables foraged from the surrounding hills, basashi (raw horsemeat, a specialty of Kumamoto), hot pots brimming with even more local veggies and citrus fruits from nearby Oita prefecture for dessert. Dinner is at least a two hour affair. Be warned that the staff doesn't skimp on breakfast, either. Somehow, you need to find a way to make room in your stomach over night!
There is ample parking available for those traveling to Kurokawa Onsen by car but if you are arriving by bus, the ryokan will send a shuttle to meet you and bring you back to the inn. Staff will also take you into the main town to visit the other baths at your request.