Despite my lack of Internet at home (thank you Eir, and Virgin), I will manage to publish this post about our second Japanese stop, Yufuin 🙂
Where is Yufuin, you ask? Well, it is a little village in Kyushu, the island south of Honshu (Tokyo’s island, just so you can vaguely picture it on your totally made up mental map). We wanted a little pause between cities, so we decided upon this onsen ridden place, the second best known spa town on the island after the very touristy Beppu. I would have loved to go to mount Aso and surroundings, but we just did not have time for everything (three weeks just seem like a lot of time…).
Off we went to Yufuin, then. The trip from Tokyo to Yufu was 8 hours, with no delays, of course. The last leg of the trip was aboard the famous (yes, in Japan there are lots of famous trains, more of this in another post) Yufuin-no-mori, touristic train that goes from Hakata station in Fukuoka to Beppu, through the lovely mountains and countryside of Kyushu.
A very nice waiter in the Kirinko lake area literally accompanied us to the door of our Airbnb place, which was unbelievable. We had a 12 people apartment for ourselves: a bedroom, two massive Japanese-style living rooms, and, most importantly, a private
onsen. Yes, it was as good as it sounds. The onsen area was divided, so we had at our disposal an indoor hot-hot-hot water pool, and an outdoor warm-warm-perfect pool, which was our first stop after a long, even if pleasant, trip.
That night, we went and explored a little bit of the town. A word of warning here: Yufuin is mainly a day-trip or, at best, a one night stay place, since it is very small. Most of the travelers stay in their own very nice and luxurious ryokans for the night, so it is not too easy to find a restaurant open after dark (that being around six thirty in the afternoon).
And that was when it started to rain.
It was the only night it caught us while we were outside and it did not help the restaurant search. We headed to the area close to the train station and we were turned down from a couple of places. When starting to feel desperate, we found this tiny little restaurant. Not only they didn’t turn us down, but they were so nice we almost started crying: as soon as we sat down, they handed us the menu that was, for the first and last time since, in Japanese with no pictures. When trying to figure it out, a woman who was clearly the cook’s wife explained to us that we could use a QR code to have it translated into English. The frustration was at its peak then, since we had no internet. That’s when, with the kind of sigh that only a mother could produce, she went away and came back after a minute with her own phone, where the app was open to order everything online, in English. And of course, the food was just heavenly. Yakitoris of different types started flowing (I’m looking at you, chicken skin yakitori), and when we finally headed home, we were happy again.
Our second and last day in Yufuin saw us stewing for a while in our private onsen (I can’t express enough smugness at having a private onsen for 20 eur a night) and then, relaxed, heading out to the centre of town. Yufuin’s main streets are full of little shops selling everything artisan (clothes, orange juice, ice cream, shoes…) so it was very nice to just stroll, visit shops and buy souvenirs. There was a Snoopy shop and café (the first sign of Japan’s obsession with the pooch), various animal cafés and flower town, where you could find Heidi’s goat (if you don’t know what I am talking about it’s ok, it’s an old Japanese cartoon that everyone in Italy had the misfortune of watching at some point or another… that little Heidi brat!).
Most importantly, we had lunch! We found another teeny tiny place close to the train station where a couple owned a nice ramen restaurant. And boy, that ramen was good. I think it was actually the best one I had while in Japan. It was a chilly ramen packed full of flavour and deliciousness. Spicy and earthy, I just loved it from beginning to end, when we dunked the rice in to finish it up. Lieutenant Cookie had a smoked pork ramen that also looked delicious (she confirmed that it also tasted yummi 😀 ).
After this very satisfying lunch we headed back to explore the town. We had a lovely ice cream from one of the many, many, street vendors and we went to the Floral Village. We did not have big expectations about this place, but it turned out to be a lovely little corner of this lovely little town where you could find Heidi’s goat (yup), some owls, some more nice shops (Studio Ghibli is also high up in Japanese most favourite things ever) and a couple of ducks thrown in for good measure.
The night in Yufuin was very quiet. We decided we wanted to stay in and enjoy some beers in our private onsen (Did I say that we had a private onsen? Oh, yes, I did 😀 ).
Before going home, we went to a convenience store in order to try another staple of Japanese cuisine: convenience store fried chicken. It’s very normal for Japanese people to eat in these places that are cheap and fast, but I must say that the face of the ladies at the till when we started ordering food was hilarious. Normally you eat a couple of little pieces of chicken, you don’t buy the whole shop like we did and bring home beer and a banquet worthy of a Roman emperor.
Their faces can be summarized in the following fashion:
After causing such interesting reactions, we retreaded with our dinners and nice Japanese beers to the apartment, where we relaxed in the therapeutic waters of Yufuin before getting a well deserved night’s sleep.