The Best Thermal Spas in Kumamoto

ByJustin Hanus
Mar 24, 2023

The Best Thermal Spas in Kumamoto

The island of Kyushu is known for having many active volcanoes. This means it’s an excellent spot for thermal spas, called onsen. There are many to choose from throughout Kumamoto prefecture, but some stand out as the best.

1. Yulax

For an onsen within Kumamoto city, a top choice is Yulax. It’s just 10 minutes from Heisei Station, making it a great place to go whenever you need a break from city life. The onsen is best known for its saunas, although it also has several baths (including a deep open-air bath), a relaxation area, massage machines, and mud-pack treatments.

2. Yamanoyado Shinmeikan Cave Bath

A unique way to enjoy a thermal spa is in a cave. At Yamanoyado Shinmeikan ryokan, you can soak in a bath cut into the cliffside. There are three baths: one for men, one for women, and one that’s mixed. Since it’s dark and steamy, it can be difficult to see where you should go — ask a staff member if you have any doubts.

3. Takara no Yu

Several onsens in Kumamoto are naturally carbonated. One is Takara no Yu, which has an open-air and indoor bath. Sitting in hot water with bubbles bursting around you is quite the experience.

4. Tsuetate Onsen

A thermal spa with a long history is Tsuetate Onsen — it has existed for almost 2,000 years. The onsen is famous for its steam, which forms the basis of the steam baths and is used for cooking foods like vegetables, eggs, and the local custard pudding. Of course, you can also bathe in the water. This is cooled because the hot spring is boiling. Finally, while you’re at the onsen, you’ll have the chance to explore narrow passages called sedoya, which run between the old buildings.

5. Kikuchi Onsen

It can be just as interesting to visit modern thermal spas. The hot waters at Kikuchi Onsen were only discovered around 60 years ago. The legend goes that a local man called Mr. Murakami had a dream about a white dragon who showed him the location of the onsen. Today, people visit for the healing properties of the water, which are said to relieve pain and fatigue. When you visit, you’ll purchase onsen tokens, which allow you to enter different hot springs — there are around 10 to choose from.

6. Onsen in Waita

Right at the edge of Kumamoto prefecture on the border of Oita is Mount Waita. There are six small thermal resorts here — all relatively unknown to tourists. Before you even reach the onsen, you’ll see steam rising from the ground and engulfing the village. To make the most of your visit, you can stay in a traditional ryokan for an affordable price. It’s best to find accommodation with an outdoor bath where you can look out at the mountain.

Since every onsen in Kumamoto offers something different, you may like to visit several. Not only is this the ultimate way to relax, but it’s also a great option to see more of the prefecture.

Miya.m, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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