I’ve done it! I’ve bitten the bullet and finally created my first travel guide for Youtube. Was it hard? Not too bad. Was it fun? Kinda embarrassing, to be honest. Am I kicking myself for not making them for every other place I’ve been in the past 5 years? Yes, totally. Did I forget to take any pictures because I was just taking video? ABSOLUTELY!
Please have a watch and then come on back over here and I’ll break down everything in the video.
My boyfriend and I have started a bit of an annual tradition of taking a trip somewhere in Japan right before Christmas. We, shockingly, don’t get a chance to travel within Japan that often. We travel practically every where OUTSIDE of Japan, but there are so many places left in the country that I live that I have yet to see.
We had some ANA (All Nippon Airlines) coins (points, essentially) that we needed to use up before they expired, so we began looking up places to visit. Kei knows I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to train travel, so he suggested we head down to the Southern most island of mainland Japan, Kyushu, to ride on one of their many “Tourist Trains”.
Kyushu has become really famous for their many designer trains offering interesting services and routes. Our friend Dave was in town a few months ago and told us about his trip down to Yufuin and about taking the Yufuin no Mori train in to Yufuin to go soak in the onsens (hot springs). Yufuin is a super popular little onsen resort town that is rumored to be the inspiration for My Neighbor Totoro.
Cool train, onsens, and Studio Ghibli stuff? Yep! I’m in.
Fukuoka is an easy 1.5 hour flight from Tokyo, or you can fly direct from many different places. You can also choose to fly in to Beppu or Oita. From Fukuoka Airport you take the subway 5 minutes and arrive at Hakata station (seriously it’s the most convenient airport -> city transfer ever).
Since the Yufuin no Mori is quite a popular train and only runs limited times, I would suggest buying your ticket ahead of time. You can purchase them on the JR Kyushu website.
Unfortunately for us, when we booked our tickets….we messed up. We accidentally had purchased the train BEFORE the train we needed. The ticket guy informed us that the next train (the one we intended to take) was totally full so we’d have to take the local trains to get there. I was devastated. A big part of this whole trip was to take the special train.
Our local train was leaving from the same platform as the Yufuin no Mori, so we got to the platform and I nearly cried. Kei perked up and said “Wait I’m going to check something!” and ran over to the train attendant. She disappeared in to the conductors area and then asked for our tickets. Low and behold – they DID have room! Somehow the ticket computers down in the office did not have an accurate count or something. I’m not sure what happened. But if you ever find yourself in the same situation – Talk To The Train Attendant! I guess the actual train staff knows better about their ticket situation. I’d only advise doing this if you have someone who can speak Japanese, however. It’s a bit of a complicated situation.
When you get on the train, make a beeline for the food car and order one of the special bento boxes. If you’re on the train heading BACK to Hakata from Yufuin, grab a special roll cake!
We stayed at Tamanoyu in Yufuin. It is a fairly famous ryokan with amazing rooms and delicious food. Make sure you stop by their cafe to get a slice of their famous apple pie (but get there early, it sells out).
Wander the streets of Yufuin and try out all the special snacks available. The most popular ones seem to be:
Croquette (コロッケ) from Yufuin Kinsho Croquettes
Warm Cheesecake from Yufuin Milch
Roll Cake from B Speak (get there early if you want an individual slice)
Apple Pie from Tea Room Nicol (attached to Tamanoyu)
There are a myriad of other snacks to try, so start out with an empty stomach!
As you meander your way through town, pop in to all of the shops and try they samples they have out. I highly recommend the soy sauce specialty shop Yufuin Syouyu-ya Honten when you can sample different types of soy sauce and spices. Yufuin is quite famous for its soy sauce, which is a bit on the sweet side.
Once you hit the end of the main street, you’ll stumble upon Yufuin Floral Village, which is a small shopping center made to look like a village in England. All of the small cottages are filled with shops specializing in one thing (Studio Ghibli, Shaun the Sheep, Cats, Owls, etc). You can also find Cheshire Cat’s Forest (cat cafe) and the Owl Forest (outdoor place to see owls).
Nearby is also the Mame Shiba (miniature Shiba Inu) cafe – stop in and play with some puppies if you’re a dog lover!
The last main destination in Yufuin is the lake. It’s quite small, so take a quick stroll around it and then head back to your hotel or ryokan and enjoy soaking in your onsen.
Our second day we changed location to a very middle-of-nowhere place called Hita – and I’ll cover that in another post!