We started our second day with the normal ryokan breakfast. How the hell do people eat this much?! I was still full from dinner.
The very first time I stayed in a ryokan (many years ago) I ate everything to be polite and woke up in the middle of the night with a horrible stomach ache. I had made the mistake of booking a room without a private bathroom, so I had to tiptoe down the hall to the shared bathroom – it was slightly mortifying. Relaying this is also slightly mortifying, but I do so in the hope that you will learn from my mistake. Book a ryokan room that a private bathroom. Trust me.
Tamanoyou Yufuin only had availability for one night during our intended holiday, so my boyfriend had looked up other interesting lodgings in the area. He stumbled upon a place called Okuhita Onsen Umehibiki Ryokan located about an hour away from Yufuin in Hita. Yufuin is quite small and you can see everything in a day, so we decided we wouldn’t mind moving to a different area of Kyushu. The pictures of Umehibiki looked amazing. It’s a new hotel, with modern Japanese design elements. It’s slick, and the rooms are really well designed. I’d classify this as a ryokan-hotel. I adore ryokan-hotels. You get your fun onsen time, and the properties are large so there’s lots to explore and see. We booked one of the rooms in the New Wing which faced out over the valley and had a private onsen on the patio.
We visited the Mame Shiba (miniature Shiba Inu) Cafe in Yufuin, did some last minute shopping, and then hopped back on the Yufuin no Mori to take the hour long ride to Hita.
If you go to Hita and want to see anything outside of your hotel, you’re going to need to rent a car. I hadn’t researched much on what to do ahead of time, so the night before we went to Hita, I made a call and told Kei to get us a car. Luckily there were lots of cars available for a very cheap price at a rental place (Times Car) within walking distance of the station. The ryokan is about a 15/20 minute drive from the city center through a gorgeous valley.
When we booked Umehibiki, there was a promotion going on where you could go to a yakiniku (grilled meat) dinner instead of doing the normal kaiseiki style one. Since we were staying two nights, we decided to do one night at the yakiniku. I would suggest not doing this. The yakiniku place is just an annex of the hotel attached to the nearby tourist center/rest stop and the food was mediocre. If you have a car, drive in to the city one night and eat at an izakaya there instead.
Ok, so, you’re kinda in the middle of nowhere in Hita. It’s a decent-sized town but it’s still small and remote. Have no fear, however, as there is plenty to do (if you have a car)!
We wanted to do some hiking somewhere, and while that proved to be a bit of an issue finding a good route, I stumbled upon Ishizaka Stone Pathway. It is an old foot path up over a hill that was the main thoroughfare between two of the villages. If you use google maps to get there, make sure you have the coordinates put in to your GPS exactly as they are on my map. And when you see the river and have gotten off the highway, make sure you’re on the right side of the river (not the left). There’s no parking, but we kinda found a space at the bottom of the road in a residential area and then walked up. It’s kinda hidden, but if you watch the video it’ll give an idea of where the entrance is.
I threw together a map of all the places we visited and also a couple that looked interesting to me. If you go in the summer, eat on one of the floating barges in the river and watch the fishermen work with their Cormorants. This list made by Hita city is a good starting point that lists things to see in the area. If you’re in to pottery, make sure you visit the potters village!
Or discover a small shrine tucked away on top of a hill.