If you watched the Ghibli movie, Spirited Away, you’ll know the scene when the main character Chihiro or Sen, is running through the town dotted with red paper lanterns as the spirits begin to appear. You’ll also know that in the movie, Sen is tasked to work at the spirit sento (public bathhouse). The more you think about it, you’ll slowly begin to see the similarities that this movie and this onsen town have to offer.
It’s said that Yunohira onsen first opened over 800 years ago during the Kamakura period (1185~1333). The cobblestone slope that runs through Yunohira alongside the beautiful Kagonogawa River is rich in history having been built during the Edo period over 300 years ago by the villagers.
During the Edo period, it became a thriving onsen town, as wealthy customers and samurai’s would flock to soak in the onsens of Yunohira. However in the Meiji period (1868~1912), rules allowing only the rich to use the onsens were lifted, thus making it available to the general public to also enjoy.
Walk the Cobblestone Path and Take Picture-esque Shots 📸
The Yunohira onsen town is a perfect escape for those who want a slower pace. The closest train station is Yunohira station, which is just 12 mins by train from the popular resort town of Yufuin. Once you arrive to Yunohira station, it’s best to take a short taxi ride to head into the Yunohira onsen town.
Here, you’ll be transported back in time. The quiet town gives that old town charm with small stores, ryokans (Japanese Inn) and small shops and houses lined along the street. What makes this town an even more picturesque spot is the raging Kagono river that runs through the town.
Take a Break to Enjoy the Seasonal Local Specialities 🍱🍺☕️
Just like the movie, once you’ve explored the town for a bit, take a break and head to Ureshino Shokudo 嬉し乃食堂 (Address: 〒879-5112 大分県由布市湯布院町湯平375-2, open from 11am to 9pm, 7 days a week).
At Ureshino Shokudo, they offer seasonal items which are sourced from local, organic farms located in Yufuin. Known for their freshwater fish cuisine, it’s a definite must try. But if you are not a fan of freshwater fish, then opt for their unagi which is also a popular item.
If you prefer to instead sit and relax, then head to Cafe & Bar Linden (Cafe&Bar リンデン) which is located in Shimizu Inn 旅館 志美津 (Address: 〒879-5112 大分県由布市湯布院町湯平263, open from 8am to 9pm) where you’ll be able to enjoy coffee that’s ground right in front of you, or their local Yufuin beer, original cocktails, and homemade desserts.
Soak in the Bathhouse ♨️
Once it sunsets, just like the scene when the spirits begin to appear and are heading to the bathhouse, relax your tired feet by heading to one of the bathhouses in Yunohira. With five locations available, these bathhouses do not require reservation. But as always you can most certainly relax in the onsen of your ryokan as well.
If you are up to trying a bathhouse, we recommend you checking out Gin no Yu 銀の湯(Address: 〒879-5112 大分県由布市湯布院町湯平351-7, open from 6am to 9pm, costs 200 YEN, no tattoos allowed) which literally translates to “silver onsen”. It’s said that back in the day this onsen spot was located in the river. The reason it got its name, “silver onsen” is because there were specks of crystal silver dust floating in the onsen water.
End the Night by Recreating the Red Lantern Night Scene 🏮
Cap off the night in Yunohira by walking along the cobblestone pathway. You’ll be taken back to the scene of Chihiro running through the streets adorned with the red lanterns glowing ever so brightly.