Located in Oita prefecture, an hour by train from Oita city, Yufuin is a picturesque Onsen resort town lying at the foot of Yufu-dake mountain. Famous for its luxurious ryokan and hot springs, the town draws tourists from far and wide every day of the year.
Stepping outside of Yufuin station, you’re greeted by the impressive sight of Yufu-dake directly ahead, particularly impressive in the colder months when it’s capped by snow.
Even if you’re not staying at one of the ryokan, Yufuin is well worth a day trip if you’re near Oita for the lovely scenery and the shopping. Traveling north east along the main road from the station finds you surrounded by a diverse array of stores, the ideal place to find a perfect souvenir for yourself or someone else. It’s a shopping strip brimming with character, Yufuin being home to a large community of craftsmen and produce makers. Here you can find hand made goods, boutique honey and jams, artisan bakeries, specialty cake stores, old style soy sauce and pickle stores, as well as excellent cafes and famous street food. Personally, I recommend the Potato Croquettes which have appeared on Japanese TV numerous times and are some of the best in Japan.
There are a few other attractions dotted around the town including an owl exhibit, Lake Kinrin and of course, the numerous hot springs.
If you go to Yufuin with the intention of climbing the Mountain, its best to arrive early. The mountain gives the visual impression of being close by, but it’s not easily accessible without a car. Taxi is your best bet for this, or catching a local bus.
I’ve been to Yufuin a few times and am very fond of the place though I have to say that it has experienced a surge in popularity in recent years. There are frequent bus loads of both Japanese and overseas tourists so it can at times be difficult to move your way through the masses of people. This is definitely something to consider to before going if you don’t like crowds. You may be lucky enough to arrive at a less busy time and I find that generally, it’s easier to get around in the early morning.
Earlier this year, shortly after I was there last, Yufuin suffered substantial damage in the earthquake that shook Kumamoto and large parts of Kyushu. The town is back up on its feet again and is fine to visit for sightseeing though as of the time of writing it is currently not recommended to climb the mountains due to rocks possibly being disturbed by the quakes.