In a world of storms
Let there be no wavering
Of our human hearts;
Remain as the pine tree
With root sunk deep in stone.
(Waka by the late Hirohito, former Emperor of Japan)
Yuki ni tae arashi ni taeshi nochi ni koso matsu no kurai mo takaku miekere
Setting off from Shinsen, the Manager helped us program the GPS to Kurokawa So. She produced a map of Kurokawa, that’s how professional!
At Kurokawa, I couldn’t get the accommodation most recommended, Ikoi Ryokan which is next to the bus stop and has 13 onsen. Fujiya comes highly recommended too.
Booking a ryokan in Kurokawa was very efficient. There was an official Kurokawa website, where i signed up, indicating which Ryokan was available on the night I would be passing through. We booked a month earlier and the popular rooms were not available for the Sunday and Monday nights. Our stay came with a room with Kaiseki dinner and breakfast and free onsen.
Kurokawa So was the pricier one. But I’m glad for the choice for its location away from the bustle and the privacy and decent car park space and hotel garden and compound. (This is all on hindsight). It’s not as far from the village as it looks from the map. It’s not the same league as Shinsen.
Kaiseki dinner was in your bedroom. Bad choice as the miso smell lingered.
We tried horse sashimi. I can’t tell the difference except that it looked lean and reddish. Sweet and tender. I like beef tartar in France so I’m not squirmish with raw horse meat. But only once for the experience since Kyushu is famous for this dish.
I found the village slightly claustrophobic with its roads narrow for one car size. Many a ryokan was situated on two way drives only the width for one car. Imagine. We saw an inexperienced driver bump his car 3 times into corners while reversing, corned by 2 on facing cars. http://www.kurokawaonsen.or.jp/eng_new/sp/bathing/
Take a walk around the photogenic village and try some onsen with a onsen pass. You can also buy a pass at the counter of any participating ryokan for 1300¥ which entitled you to 3 different onsen valid for 6 months. Entry to each onsen is 500¥ , so this is a saving of 200¥ provided you don’t lose your pass. I didn’t see need for one.
There are not many snack shops but Patisserie Roku is a must try. There are long queues outside. The puff is indeed good. I think it’s the creamy Jersey milk from the Aso region.
We had one on the first day and another on the second day and the apple puff. We forgot about the apple puff and only ate it that night when we arrived in Fukuoka. Still very good. Other popular snack shops include Dora Dora which serves red bean pancake, dorayaki (matcha most popular flavour) and the horse meat croquette shop with coffee.
Here are some fun facts about Kyushu from my friend Bel:
No. of Onsen in Kyushu – 9,716.
No. of Onsens in Japan is 27,671.
Although Kyushu’s land area is only 11% of Japan, its onsen baths account for 35% in Japan. Hence Kyushu has been conferred the title of “Kingdom of Onsen”
On way back to Fukuoka, we passed by a few scenic stops. There’s a Hita bus stop and a Matsubara dam with a Japanese restaurant for a pit stop which must have been popular
during the Sakurai viewing season.
Quite an experience, driving through the pine filled forest, running water , stone mountain and red maple leaves. That was the real highlight rather than Fukuoka.
Day 1 Fukuoka
Day 2 Nagasaki
Day 3 Kumamoto
Day 4 Takachiho Gorge and Mt Aso
Day 5 Kurokawa Onsen
Day 6 Return to Fukuoka