1. Sansou Murata (Yufuin Town, Oita)
Located in a tranquil mountain setting a short distance from the town of Yufuin, Sansou Murata features 12 separate guest rooms spread across nine distinct buildings, each with a different floor plan. The structures are dotted around a spacious site of 12,500 square meters (3 acres), and most are old homes built in the steep-roofed gassho-zukuri (praying hands) style that have been relocated to this site.
Sansou Murata has no common hot spring bath, but each of the guest rooms has a bath of its own. Some of the rooms have been furnished in a Western style, with genuine, top-quality fixtures. For dining, guests can enjoy Yamazato Sosakuzen (literally, "mountain-hamlet-produced meals"), creative cuisine that makes the most of the qualities of each season using ingredients sourced in mountain villages.
Sansou Murata also features a full range of on-site facilities. With three different restaurants, two Western pastry shops, a bar, a shop where you can purchase hotel fixtures that have taken your fancy, and a museum as well, guests can enjoy the ambiance of a small, secluded village without feeling deprived of luxury. Here, in the stillness of nature and in this private space, you can forget the hustle and bustle of daily life and slowly unwind.
Address: 1264-2 Kawakami, Yufuin Town, Oita Prefecture
Access: Transportation to and from JR Yufuin Station (or the bus center in front of Yufuin Station) can be arranged by reservation
2. Sansou-Tensui (Amagase Town, Oita)
Nestled in the mountains amid the sounds of mountain streams and waterfalls, Sansou-Tensui is a single-building facility. The inn is tucked away in grove of green trees facing the Goraku River, which runs through the hinterland of Tenryo Hita, and offers a stellar view of Sakurataki Falls. It’s a delightful spot where the sounds of water and the chirping of insects can be heard from the rooms, offering guests the opportunity to enjoy nature to its fullest.
Seven different styles of cozy hot springs can be enjoyed in this secluded inn, and each of the many baths has a historic ambiance. Be healed in this wonderful environment with its variety of bathing styles, such as open-air baths and family baths, each of which overflows with natural spring water.
Prepared from seasonal ingredients, Sansou-Tensui's multi-course kaiseki cuisine is so delicious that it can't be matched in high-end Japanese restaurants. Unwind from the stresses of mind and body with heart-warming hospitality based on nature’s abundance in each of the four seasons.
Address: 601 Sakuradake, Amagase Town, Hita City, Oita Prefecture
Access: 15-minute walk from Amagase Station
3. Ryokan Sanga (Kurokawa Onsen, Kumamoto)
Ryokan Sanga is nestled in a beech forest about a kilometer (0.6 mi) west of Kurokawa Onsen proper. A tapestry of vegetation covers the inn to create a setting that's exquisite in each of the four seasons. Here, guests can enjoy two kinds of high-quality hot spring water together with seasonally inspired, multi-course kaiseki cuisine.
The pride of the inn is its landscape of open-air baths and its two different types of highly effective spring water. The indoor bath, Yakushi-no-Yu, is a medicinal spa, while Moyai-no-Yu is a mixed bath whose waters beautify the skin. We also recommend the reservable cypress bathtubs for solo bathing.
The menu operates on the motto of “cuisine that moves you,” with dishes prepared from plentiful seasonal and local ingredients. The head chef carefully selects Akaushi Wagyu beef and fresh ingredients from Aso that are sure to delight any visitor.
Address: 6961-1 Manganji, Minamioguni Town, Aso District, Kumamoto Prefecture
Access: About one hour by car from Hita Interchange
4. Takefue (Shirakawa Onsen, Kumamoto)
Here you will find a mere 11 guest rooms dotted around a spacious site of some 13,000 square meters (3.2 acres), rich with nature and surrounded by a bamboo forest. All the rooms are Japanese style with a Japanese sunken hearth and indoor baths. In addition, seven detached rooms offer open-air baths about 5 meters (16 ft) in length. Each of the inn’s 27 baths is 100 percent supplied by free-flowing spring water straight from the source.
One of Japan’s "Three Great Hot Springs for Beautiful People," Takefue features two spring water qualities: an alkaline sodium bicarbonate spring and a sulfate spring. Bathing can be enjoyed at any time you desire, day or night, in each of the rooms in free-flowing tubs from the inn’s own source. Dinner and breakfast can also be enjoyed in the privacy of your room around the sunken hearth. Takefue also has a spa building where guests can enjoy a leisurely time in a relaxing space, where you'll feel like you're melting into lush nature.
The inn prides itself on its cuisine, which is created with the utmost care using in-season delicacies at the peak of flavor, with a focus on fresh local ingredients from Kumamoto. Takefue is also very particular about the preparation of dressings and sauces.
Address: 5725 Manganji, Minamioguni Town, Aso District, Kumamoto Prefecture
Access: Free shuttle bus service from Kurokawa Onsen
5. Warakuen (Ureshino Onsen, Saga)
Warakuen is a Japanese-style inn situated on the Ureshino River overlooking the spa town of Ureshino Onsen. The inn makes a major feature of the green tea that is the specialty of Ureshino, be it for drinking, eating or soaking!
Warakuen is known for Rokusen, the first open-air bath in Japan to make use of green tea. Large quantities of high-quality Ureshino tea are soaked in the skin-beautifying, clear and colorless spring waters, creating sterilizing, whitening and skin tightening effects.
Guests can enjoy multi-course kaiseki cuisine prepared with a bounty of local ingredients, including fresh, mouth-watering seafood from the Genkai and Ariake Seas, “tea porridge” prepared using Ureshino’s specialty tea, and Ureshino’s famous yudofu boiled tofu dish.
Our recommended room type is the Sazan-tei style room in the main building, which has a private open-air bath. Each of the seven Sazan-tei rooms presents an open-air bath in a different mood. Take your time to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of these Japanese-style rooms, each with its own verdant garden.
Address: 33 Shimono-ko, Ureshino Town, Ureshino City, Saga Prefecture
Access: 25-minute drive from Takeo Onsen Station
6. Takachiho Ryokan Shinsen (Takachiho Town, Miyazaki)
This is the most luxurious of all the inns in the town of Takachiho. In a quiet space surrounded by the magnificent natural landscape of this town of myths and legends, you'll find a healing environment that values the Japanese spirit.
Takachiho Ryokan Shinsen features various types of rooms, both Japanese style and Japanese-Western, including rooms with their own baths, delicately fragrant of cypress wood. Our recommended room type is the annex Kamuroki-no-Shou rooms, each of which has its own open-air bath. Enjoy relaxing in these rooms with Western-style beds after your bath.
Guests can also enjoy their fill of delicate Kyoto-style kaiseki cuisine, created with utmost attention to the details of flavor and presentation, from a combination of ingredients sourced both locally and nationwide.
The ryokan (traditional inn) features a spacious Japanese garden, where guests can delight in the beauty of each of the four seasons. It's also wonderful to see the thought put into details such as the flooring in the corridors, which is all tatami (straw mats), allowing guests to feel at ease in a home-like environment.
Address: 1127-5 Mitai, Takachiho Town, Nishi-Usuki District
Access: 15-minute walk from Takachiho Bus Center
7. Hotel Europe (Sasebo City, Nagasaki)
Located in Nagasaki Prefecture, Huis Ten Bosch is a popular theme park that will delight both children and adults with its attractions and stylish recreations of traditional Dutch architecture. You can enjoy theme park attractions during the day, while at night spectacular illumination awaits.
For guests who want to enjoy the park to its fullest by staying a night or two, we recommend selecting one of the hotels located inside the park itself. Among them, Hotel Europe, a top-class, classic hotel standing on a canal, has a wonderful reputation.
First of all, check-in and check-out feel rather special here thanks to the dedicated cruiser that connects the entrance with the hotel pier. The lobby is filled with expressions of a rich and elegant atmosphere, such as live musical performances and lavish displays of seasonal flowers.
The sense of journey is enhanced by invitations to parties, a nightly hotel concert performed by international musicians, and a masquerade ball that unrolls in Amsterdam Square each night. Another attraction of this hotel is the breakfast buffet, which offers a selection of over 70 different kinds of authentic cuisine.
Adress: 7-7 Huis Ten Bosch Town, Sasebo City, Nagasaki Prefecture
Access: Hotel Europe Free Shuttle Bus Service leaving directly from Nagasaki Airport (about one hour, reservations required)
(Image © Huis Ten Bosch / J-17547)
8. Myoken Ishiharaso (Kirishima Onsen, Kagoshima)
Myoken Ishiharaso is one of the selected accommodations on the course of the Seven Stars cruise train, a highly sought-after and difficult-to-book luxury sleeper train famous for its suites. Suites cost between ¥600,000 and ¥1,000,000 per person (approximately US$6,000-10,000) for three nights and four days!
The grounds of this hot spring inn extend some 10,000 tsubo (33,000 sqm/8.2 acres), and are surrounded by mountains and greenery. All the guests rooms face a stream, whose pleasant murmurings can be heard from each room. Guest rooms are located in either the main building or the stone warehouse, but we recommend the warehouse—a former rice warehouse built in 1931 that was relocated to this site.
The warehouse, which is made of stone and wood accents, offers travelers a lavishly warm welcome. Each of the warehouse rooms is equipped with its own open-air bath with free-flowing water, 100 percent direct from the source.
Meanwhile, the inn's restaurant in divided using partitioning walls built from objects such as old tools, giving it almost the feeling of a museum. Here guests can enjoy quality time at their leisure.
Address: 4376 Kareigawa, Hayato Town, Kirishima City, Kagoshima Prefecture
Access: 15 minutes from both Kagoshima Airport and Hayato Station (shuttle taxi service available)