Those who love to travel to wonderful lesser-known sightseeing spots should consider visiting the city of Yamaguchi. Shinkansen from Tokyo travel directly to Shin-Yamaguchi Station in approximately 4 1/2 hours. From there, it is less than 20 minutes by local train to Yuda Onsen, which has been known for its hot springs for over 800 years.
Upon arrival at Yuda Onsen Station, a giant white fox greets visitors and beckons them into his free onsen foot bath. It is said that long ago, a white fox was seen treating its wounded leg in a small, hot spring-heated pond in the area. The fox became the symbol of Yuda Onsen, and images can be seen scattered throughout the town.
Yuda Onsen itself is a small cluster of Japanese-style inns approximately 10 minutes’ walk (or a short taxi ride) from the station. There are some minor sightseeing spots, but most people use Yuda Onsen as a 'base' to visit nearby sights, including the stunning Rurikoji Temple.
The temple was built by the powerful Ouchi clan, and is now part of Kozan Park. Rurikoji is most famous for its gorgeous five-story pagoda, which ranks as one of Japan's 'Top 3'. The grounds are spacious and include (among other things), an impressive main hall, a tiny museum filled with photos and replicas of over 50 five-storied pagoda from around Japan, and a tea house that played a significant role in Japanese history.
There are a number of other temples and shrines in the area worth seeing, as well as some of Yamaguchi Prefecture's top museums. However, when the sun starts to set, tourists 'in the know' return to Yuda Onsen to partake in the healing properties of one of the town’s many hot spring baths. Most inns allow 'quick dip' visits by tourists who are staying elsewhere, and there are also very reasonable public facilities where one can meet the locals. Price range from around 400 to 1,600 yen.
It is also extremely popular to relax and make friends at one of the six free foot-baths scattered around town. The best, however, is at a facility called, Kitsune-no-ashi-ato, which they call in English, the 'Yuda Onsen Welcome Square'. For only 200 yen, tourists can sit in a private outdoor garden or an indoor, modern-Japanese space, dressed in special Japanese-style clothing (optional), while sake tasting or enjoying a dessert with coffee/tea.
Most inns serve an impressive dinner, but it is much more fun to eat in one of the many local restaurants or bars along Yu-no-machi Shopping Street, or behind the Matsudaya Hotel. Visitors then wander back to their own inn to soak again before falling into a wonderfully deep sleep.
Yuda Onsen itself is completely walkable, but to reach Rurikoji and other nearby attractions, tourists can choose to rent a bicycle, travel by local bus, or hire a taxi. Within central Yuda Onsen, there are over 15 Japanese-style hotels & inns, as well as a number of business hotels. If you want to stay at the best, choose the Matsudaya, Sansui-en, or Kokian.
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