On our second weekend back in Fukuoka, we decided to go on an overnight trip to Kurokawa - a famous onsen town in Kumamoto Prefecture. We found Sanga Ryokan online, and decided to go all out with a room that had a private onsen. It was definitely worth it. We dubbed the getaway "Treat yo self 2013" because of this legendary Parks and Rec. episode...
We rode a highway bus from Tenjin, which took just under 3 hours one-way. Upon arrival we were greeted by one of our hotel's staff members, who drove us in a minivan to the ryokan. The staff then showed us around our room (which was amazing), and after a cup of tea and complimentary arrival sweet, we took our first dip in the private onsen.
The windows in the private bath opened up to a river than runs alongside the hotel. Most of the ryokan in Kurokawa are in the central town area, but Sanga is about 10 minutes away - giving it a truly peaceful and isolated feel.
After a nice long soak, we took a private bus back to the town area and explored by foot. Even in the light rain, the town was beyond beautiful, and quite reminiscent of the setting of a Ghibli film.
After exploring, we headed back to Sanga and Kam and I split up to try out the outdoor gender separated baths. The outdoor women's bath was basically empty for the whole time I was there - at times I was alone, and at most there were 4 women including myself. It was really heavenly and I wish I could share a photo of the setting, but for obvious reasons cameras are not allowed.
Next, we met up for dinner, which was included in our stay. Ryokan meals are known to be elaborate and feature a wide range of local specialties and traditional foods. As a foreigner, it's like a lucky dip. 90% of the food is delicious, but there are certainly times where you do not know what you are eating. You may encounter some strong and unusual flavours that you don't taste in day-to-day Japanese life.
I always enjoy trying everything, even if I don't end up enjoying every item. 12 courses is really, really filling though. Filling and luxurious.
I bet you can guess what we did after dinner...we tried out another of our ryokan's baths! This was another outdoor bath that you can book for private use. After changing into hotel yukata (robes), we headed out in the rain to soak in the big wooden tub.
Then to bed - exhausted from all the relaxing we had done. In the morning, we woke up to the magical sight of snow from our windows.
We two Australians still get overly excited about snow... we just can't help it. Wandering around outside in the light snow, we smiled all the way to breakfast.
After checking out from Sanga, we went back to exploring Kurokawa town. It was no longer raining or snowing which made things easier.
Our final bath of the trip was probably the most unique - an onsen inside a cave!
Again, no photos for the best part, but I can assure you that it was awesome. I braved the mixed men's and women's cave bath, and luckily we had arrived early enough that we had the place completely to ourselves. The cave walls were beautiful and the water hot and steamy. It felt like more of an adventure than it was in reality, like we'd stepped into another world. Highly recommended.
Finally we had some lunch before catching our bus home. There was a very cute cafe/restaurant where they had an old SNES/Famicom machine set up for customers to play, not to mention delicious food. It was a great place to stay warm while we waited for our bus.
And so ended a wonderful one night stay in Kurokawa. Relaxing doesn't even begin to describe the trip, and I'd definitely recommend it as a destination to those visiting Kyushu!