This Hidden Island Is One Of The Most Underrated Nature Destinations In Asia

This Hidden Island Is One Of The Most Underrated Nature Destinations In Asia

At Kai Yufuin, a new ryokan resort on Kyushu Island, it’s hard to resist the desire to spend nearly every second in the water. Kyushu is home to more than a third of Japan’s hot springs, or onsen, many of which have attached bathhouses or inns.

The volcanic landscapes that heat Kyushu’s springs also provide the region with citrus orchards and a saw-toothed coastline dotted with emerald islets. Despite its natural beauty and seductively relaxed pace, the island is often overlooked by foreign tourists.

Travelers are greeted upon arrival by a flashy new bullet train, which helps cut the journey between Fukuoka and Nagasaki, the island’s two major cities, to 80 minutes.

The next location is Yufuin in Oita Prefecture, which is the center of Japanese onsen culture and has the most hot springs in Japan. Kai Yufuin, like many other hotels in the area, has one on site. Designed by architect Kengo Kuma (Japan National Stadium in Tokyo; V&A Dundee, Scotland), built the property which has 45 modern guest rooms in a beautiful green valley with cascading rice fields. It’s a setting fit for a woodcut painting.

Beppu, Japan hot springs at kamado jigoku
Beppu, Japan hot springs at Kamado Jigoku

To the west lies the prefecture of Saga, known for its handicrafts, such as porcelain and furniture, and for its rich tea heritage. Ureshino is said to be where tea originated in Japan in the 12th century.

Then you have to make your way to the coast, a journey made even faster by the Nishi Kyushu Shinkansen, which made its debut last fall. The country’s newest bullet train reaches a top speed of 161 miles per hour and covers the 45 miles between Takeo Onsen and Nagasaki in 23 minutes.

Volcano, Kyushu, Mount Aso

When you arrive in Nagasaki, you can take the tram through the hilly city and then catch a ferry to the Goto Islands. The archipelago lies about 60 miles off the coast of Kyushu and is famous for its seafood, udon, tsubaki (camellias) and wild mountain scenery. Fukue, the largest island, is also home to one of Japan’s newest design hotels, the Goto Retreat Ray.

The late Yukio Hashimoto designed the dramatic monochrome spaces, which have glass walls on one side that fully reflect the forested peaks and turquoise waters. While there are no hot springs in the hotel, each unit has its own outdoor bathroom. After you check-in, you can soak in the hot water while gazing at the sea and sky.