Retro-feel onsen village in Kyushu – Kurokawa Onsen 黑川温泉

In Kyushu there are quite a few onsen spots, among which Kurokawa is considered Kyushu’s hidden gem. This small and charming village is located in the middle of Kyushu, near the active volcano Aso.

I’ve been to Japan before but never stayed in a Ryokan (traditional Japanese hotel) before so I was really exited and ended up taking thousands of photos during my visit.

Kurokawa onsen town is just sooooooooo stunning, especially in the winter. I don’t like hot bath or onsen that much in the summer, but it’s different to soak in the onsen while watching it snowing outside.


There’s no train station near Kurokawa, which is probably also the reason why it’s still not overwhelmed by group tourists. You can take a bus from Kumamoto or Fukuoka if you don’t have your own transportation, both take around 3 hours. 

Bus ride from Kumamoto to Kurokawa onsen. I was super lucky, come to Kurokawa onsen on a snowy day.


There are 24 ryokans in the village, with tatami-matted rooms and communal baths, one thing interesting about 

Kurokawa onsen is that it still keeps a few mixed onsens, although when I was there.

Mixed onsens are barely used, Japanese are shy, so if they can choose they will go to the private family ones (normally you can reserve for free with the ryokan you are staying) or go to the separate ones. But it exist still, I did try it and it was nice, because normally it’s more spacious.


Tea and yukata is ready, most ryokans offer two meals: breakfast and dinner, of course it’s also possible to choose just to stay. The Ryokan where I stayed is called RYOKAN YAMANOYU | 南小国ガイド, more details of the meals and the room are in this post: 

My Japanese Ryokan experience in RYOKAN YAMANOYU | 南小国ガイド in Kurokawa Onsen

Bamboo illuminations

Even though it is at around minus 8 degrees Celsius in Kurokawa Onsen village this time of the year, I still think winter is probably the best season to visit this place. Part of the reason being I couldn’t stand hot spring when it’s too hot.

So when it’s snowing, the outdoor hot spring becomes perfect. Winter time is known as the most beautiful season for Kurokawa. Every year from around Christmas to next March, there are Bamboo illuminations along the river in the center of Kurokawa.

It has been snowing hard these days, although the road can be a bit slippery, I decided to take a look at the illumination on the streets of Kurokawa. The bamboo lightening around the river is extremely idyllic and atmospheric. I feel I’m stepping out of reality, into a movie scene.

Onsen hopping

Kurokawa is a walkable little town, you can walk from one side to another in 40-45 minutes (a bit slower walking in the snow). All 24 ryokans offers different kinds of baths: both indoor and outdoor ones.

Outdoor baths in Kurokawa are various and creative, including cave bath, rocky pools, wooden tubs, etc.

Normally onsen holidays are pretty healthy, after an early breakfast, you choose one of the baths you like, then probably do a small walk in town to grab a small bite or stay in the room, enjoying the mountain views with a warm green tea in your hand. Later you have a pretty early dinner and go to bed early too.

Recent years, Kurokawa tourism office decides launch a « onsen hopping pass » to tourists who want to try more different baths in town instead of only the ones in the hotel they stay. The pass costs 1300 yen (around €10).

It is valid for 6 months and you are allowed to try 3 different baths with it. Considering how famous some of the ryokans in Kurokawa are, I think it’s a great price. It looks so cute too!    



If you are really too lazy, can just stay in the onsen in the hotel you are staying, above is the outdoor onsen of the ryokan I stayed.

Isn’t it too cold to wear a yukata in a snowy day? No worries, I’m going to do hot springs very soon.

The three baths that I chose were the cave bath, a rocky sulphur bath and the famous beauty bath that is said to make your skin better.


Tried the local specialty, chicken rice, which was tasty. Dinner and breakfast is included in the ryokans, there aren’t that many restaurants in town, still you can find a few that offers great set meals.

The only shrine in the snow

There’s only one shrine in Kurokawa onsen. It looked so fairy-tale like under the snow. I introduced in my older post this onsen hopping pass. There are 3 stickers on top of the pass. Once you check in one onsen, one of the stickers will be taken off, and you will get a stamp in return.

At the shrine you can also get an extra stamp, the ink was frozen under snow, still I was able to get one. Many visitors tie their complete or incomplete onsen hopping pass at the shrine. The onsen hopping pass is basically an ema. I didn’t tie my at the shrine, but take it home as a souvenir.

It was a big cold lol

Scenery along the bus ride from Kurokawa Onsen to Fukuoka.

九州地区是个度假的好地方,如果你也喜欢安静休闲的地方。因为在九州有不少活火山,于是不用说,是温泉度假的胜地。如果说欧洲的滑雪旅行是冬天家人朋友出行最爱的度假活动?,那么在日本温泉度假就是首选。 九州有不少温泉度假村,比如别府,雾岛等等,我这一站要去的是最隐蔽的黑川温泉。


这几天刚好遇到九州的冷空气降临,山上下大雪,我也是如愿有了个雪天温泉假期。下雪天的黑川太美了,第一眼就爱上了这里。达到温泉酒店,浴衣和绿茶都已经准备好了,换上浴衣,喝点茶暖和一下。 雪天的黑川温泉小镇非常美丽。我想冬天大概是来这里度假的最后时节,我并不是个温泉Spa的狂热爱好者。


冬天适合来黑川的另外一个更重要的原因是这里随处可见的点亮的竹灯。这是我从来没有见过的古朴美。从圣诞节期间到来年的3月,每年在黑川沿河都布满竹子做成的灯,加上大雪做背景,真是无法形容的美丽。看到路边有一些冻僵了的游人依旧举着相机不停拍,哈哈,也包括我在内。 除了早餐晚餐,还有饿了的时候出去买点零食,大部分时间不是在酒店泡温泉就是在房间喝茶。泡温泉的时间过得很快,泡一会,看看外面的雪景,不知不觉一个多小时就过去了,如果你喜欢安静的地方,黑川绝对是首选。


这些最有名的酒店通常需要提前订,不然就预定不到。有了“入汤手形”,即使非住客也可以有机会体验不一样的温泉了。 在黑川见到的路人基本上都穿着浴衣,下雪天其实有点冷,所以我一天就在不停穿梭去不同的温泉酒店体验。




Some videos, I wish I could have vlogged better at that time lol