Yufuin is a bonny, albeit kitschy, hot spring town a bit further inland from Beppu and, if I’m honest, I prefer Yufuin. It’s more compact and completely surrounded by mountains. But it’s not that handy if you want somewhere cheap to stay and eateries are mainly of the cafe variety: this is somewhere people either visit on a day trip or eat in their ryokans.
I went to Yufuin straight after landing at Fukuoka airport. I’d planned to get the train – there are a handful of direct trains from Hakata a day which cost around 4,500 yen and take 140 minutes. It’s covered by the Japan Rail Pass but I didn’t start mine right away, so when I spotted the Nishitetsu highway bus from the airport for 2,880 yen I leapt on it. (There are more frequent rail connections transferring via Kokura and Oita or Beppu, but most of them involve Shinkansen routes that aren’t covered by the Rail Pass.)
Buy tickets from the Domestic Terminal at Fukuoka Airport, which means getting on the free shuttle bus from International. The ticket machines and staffed office are directly in front of the bus stop. Then you have to get back on the shuttle, because the Yufuin bus leaves from the International Terminal! The bus stop is to a little to the left of the International Terminal’s main doors if you’re standing with your back to the building; look for ‘Yufuin’ painted on the floor along with other city names. An official turns up when buses are due to check tickets and put away luggage.
The journey takes about 1 hour 40 minutes, so it’s a cheaper and shorter journey than the train and the obvious option unless you have a Rail Pass. Buses leave roughly every 30-60 minutes – you can check the times online and reserve if you like, but there were less than 10 people on the bus I rode. To check the timetable and/or reserve, click the Reservation button the on left and select ‘Fukuoka’ for the departure prefecture, ‘Oita’ for the arrival prefecture, give it a few seconds to load up then select the Fukuoka-Yufuin route (obviously). Yufuin’s the final stop so no need to worry about missing it.
I stayed in a ryokan on the edge of the main town. It’s about a 20 minute walk from the station but near the inn it’s very hilly and is all twisty lanes, so it’s advisable to get a taxi at least the first time. Some of the room fixtures and fittings at Hotel Reimei are a little worn, but there’s nothing quite like eating a keiseki meal in a room overlooking lush mountains followed by a soak in an outdoor onsen while watching the sun go down to deal with jetlag.
If you do go to Yufuin and you’re British, then as well as visiting Lake Kinrin and exploring the shops and galleries, make sure to nip into Yufuin Floral Village. It will mess with your head, jetlag or no jetlag.
This article is part of a series on visiting Japan, and is inspired by Tom Royal’s Japan on a Budget.