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Kurokawa Onsen: Talking to the Town’s People in Intimate, Old Fashioned Onsen Town


Stepping foot into Kurokawa Onsen, you notice that there are more foreigners than Japanese. “I feel like foreign visitors know a lot more about Japanese tradition and custom than Japanese and respect it. They study beforehand and actually prepare to experience the culture.

Young Japanese fail to realize and cherish their own culture,” says an okami, or lady general manager, of a well-kept traditional Japanese style onsen (hot spring) inn in Kurokawa Onsen, Kumamoto Prefecture. Though no one at this inn speaks fluent English, many foreign visitors are very happy with their hospitality and care.

Kurokawa Onsen is a small, intimate onsen town without any proximate train stations, making it difficult to collect Japanese tourists unlike other popular onsen towns nearby like Yufuin Onsen and Beppu Onsen; however, this has worked positively for Kurokawa Onsen as visitors can be engrossed in its beautiful, abundant green and maze-like traditional onsen allies running next to the central river. 

Kurokawa Onsen is filled with hills. A driver of a Japanese style onsen inn about sixty years-old reminisces as he drives down a steep hill; “When I was still small, I used to attend the school built here. Sometimes, we saw broken down cars that plunged from the cliff above in the evening because drunk driving was common back then.

The school was built with an onsen on its property.” When envious voices from tourists filled the car, he continued; “Onsen could be used during break time. When the school transferred its location, I hear they built an onsui (warm water) pool using local onsen instead of building an onsen.”

Just take a stroll around the small but peaceful, cozy Kurokawa Onsen in a yukata (after-bath wear) and try talking to friendly, talkative locals; they have many interesting stories to tell.

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