Decided to take a little family vacation before the year ended. Since we love Japan so much and hadn’t really gone back since Bubba was about 3 months, we decided to do so. We booked the trip a little later than usual so figured that the flights to Tokyo would probably be full. The Man did a quick check and managed to score us flights to Fukuoka instead. Since we’ve not been there and heard loads about Kyushu and how nice it was, we decided to head there.
So with no preconceived notions nor any prior homework done on the place, I was indeed pleasantly surprised how our trip turned out. It was a little laid-back unlike its glistening counterpart but we didn’t mind that for with a child in-tow, we preferred it that way for our little one is already a hurricane to deal with everyday.
Getting to Yufuin from Fukuoka:
We arrived into Fukuoka International Airport about 7ish-8am in the morning. I had booked us a car as the Man wanted to do a road-trip around Kyushu. As we happily presented our print-out to the front-desk of the rental car company. We were in for a rude shock when the staff told us that our booking was not confirmed. Alarm bells rang in our head and the Man was all ready to re-jig our plans which involved cancelling our hotel bookings last minute. It was also the year-end period and a lot of the rented cars have already been booked so getting one off the counter was near impossible.
Thankfully, in the end, using our broken and limited Japanese, we managed to get a small rented car and we hit the road immediately! Some 2 hours later, we arrived into Yufuin and I was immediately captivated by the charming city.
Yufuin (由布院 as onsen resort, 湯布院 as city) is a popular hot spring resort, located about ten kilometers inland from Beppu, another, much larger and more developed hot spring resort. Yufuin has a wealth of art museums, cafes and boutiques, and many travelers come to the city just to stroll about town for the day.
Yufuin is located on a flat river basin surrounded by mountains. The most prominent feature of Yufuin’s skyline is the twin peaked Mount Yufu, which hovers over the town and serves as the backdrop for many scenic views. The area is rural and shortly after leaving the main walking route, travelers will come across the rice paddies and farm houses that make up a considerable part of the town.
Getting around Yufuin:
The city is really quite compact and one could cover most area by foot within a day. But we did it over 2 days for we felt the first day was too short to squeeze in all the food items that we spied on while walking around.
We also did touristy gimmick things like taking a rickshaw ride from the city centre to Lake Kinrin where we rested our feet and filled our cold bellies with some hand-made soba which our guide recommended. Must say, I was quite impressed with how much this rickshaw could hold. This includes our family of 3 plus our super heavy diaper bags and our almost 5kg stroller. We loaded the gear on the rickshaw, bundled up with blankets and then enjoyed the little ride towards Lake Kinrin as our guide showed us quickly what are the must-eats and must-dos while we made a mental note to come back to try out the eats.
Eating your way round Yufuin:
I was pleasantly surprised to find so many street food stalls in Yufuin. In fact, we didn’t even need to stop at a restaurant unless it’s to have a proper meal. On Day 2 after a full breakfast, we basically ate along the way and only stopped to rest for coffee or to sort Bubba out when she was feeling restless.
Here are some recommended eats:
- B-Speak swiss roll : Possibly the most over-rated or famous swiss rolls in the whole of Yufuin. Our guide recommended it to us and we were eager to sink our teeth into the cake or more like eager to let Bubba try out this cake. We were little surprised to find out that the small swiss-rolls (1/3 roll) were sold out in the afternoon but was told that we can make a reservation for the smaller ones to be collected for the next day. We did that and when we hit the store at about 11am, there was a long queue that was formed outside of the store. Thankfully, it moved fast, we got our cakes and had it as a snack along with a steaming cup of coffee. Was it good? I think so! It was light, fluffy, spongy with a rich eggy flavour. The Man and I both enjoyed it. The Bubs, on the other hand, took a bite and gave a bleah face. Perhaps not her cup of tea.
- Yufuin Kinsho Croquettes : A long queue spotted from afar but it did move pretty fast. Plus-point is that the croquette is freshly fried on the spot and the piping hot mashed potato was definitely enjoyable on a chilly afternoon.
- Yufuin Milch : This has gotta be Bubba’s fave cheesecake to-date. She polished it off nearly 2 cups of these on her own. We had to stop her from eating them all by sharing it with her as well. Think cheesecake but piping hot and creamy cheesecake tucked in an espresso cup.
- Takoyaki : We also stopped by to try out this giant Takoyaki along the street. Didn’t quite get the name of the stall but it was rather impressive watching the owner while queuing because the guy is literally the cook, the server and the cashier all rolled into one. Again, the long queues made it a compelling reason for us to want to try this. (Well, we probably are suckers! Haha!) There were about 10 different flavours but we ordered the original one plus a beer. Made for a great snack while Bubba managed to stretch her legs and run about while we shared the food.
We didn’t just have street food throughout the trip. Our stay at the Yufuin Hanayoshi included breakfast and dinner so we were fed very well.
Check out the marbling of the beef. This was part of our 10-course kaiseiki dinner which we will have with beer and sake. By the time dinner is over, we are usually stuffed and full.
Bubba’s meals ain’t too shabby either. This was her dinner on Day 1 which she oogled when she set her eyes on the meal. But all that prettiness went down the drain as she used her little fingers to grab the food. Haha.. Most of what was served wasn’t that ideal for her either, when it comes to food, she prefers simple stuff like rice and chawamushi. That said, during this trip, we also introduced other types of Japanese food for her to try. She now enjoys Soba, Udon, Ramen and Ikura Roe. 🙂
Stayed at Yufuin Hanayoshi:
The Man found this gem-of-a-place and managed to book it given his limited Japanese knowledge. This onsen is tucked on a mountainous area and has an amazing scenery. We stayed at the 1 bedroom western styled villa that had a Japanese style tatami room for us to relax It also had a private indoor and outdoor onsen. It made for a fun stay because we could fill our bath and let Bubba play with us without disturbing other patrons in a public onsen. Oh and I better not forget the massage chair that we had in the room. OMG, it was such a treat to lie on the chair after soaking ourselves in the onsen. All tight knots were soothed for the day.
Overall, the stay at Yufuin was so relaxing. Good food coupled with loads of sleep for all 3 of us, it set the perfect tone for a holiday!