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My Brief Stay In Unzen, Nagasaki

This week I went on a short two-day trip to Unzen, Nagasaki. Unzen is famous for its onsen and nature, a perfect place to take a rest from the buzzing city-life and work. I took the morning bus from Nagasaki station and enjoyed a lovely ride along beautiful scenery before arriving at down-town Unzen. I choose to go to Unzen because I am a onsen lover and this small town sounded like paradise to me. It didn’t disappoint me. After checking in at Unzen’s only guesthouse called Tsudoi (more about that later!) I followed the smell of sulfur and walked around Unzen Jigoku for a while.

Unzen Jigoku means ‘Unzen Hell’, a name I would say is very well suited to the scenery. High temperature volcanic gasses and hot springs erupt everywhere in the clay-coloured landscape followed by a strong smell of sulfur. There are several paths which you can follow, some will lead you to a wonderful view, others will bring you to a man that sells eggs that have been steamed by the hot spring’s of Unzen Jigoku. A cross stands on a hill in memory of the 33 Christian martyrs whom were tortured to death in the hot spring’s boiling water between 1627 and 1632.

When I left the geothermal park behind me I stumbled upon Shinyu, a public foot-bath. Throughout the village there are foot-baths and even finger-baths which you can use for a quick break from all the sightseeing.

After a quick lunch I walked to Shirakumo pond which took me around 20 minutes. Shirakumo pond is nearby Mt. Kinugasa, so for those of you who would like to climb the mountain, make sure to make a pit stop at Shirakumo. It has lovely views from all angles, some parts even reminded me a bit of Mt. Fuji. It’s very peaceful and relaxing to stroll around the pond and one of my top recommendations if you want a quiet retreat. Camping grounds are available as well.

I stayed the night at Tsudoi, Unzen’s first and newly opened guesthouse (2016). The location was very convenient and the accommodation pleasant. In the evening I enjoyed a beer and later got to talk to the owner of the guesthouse, whom is such a friendly and genuine man. I’m happy that I’d made the decision to book here and not a hotel as I felt very welcomed.

After a quick breakfast I started my second day in a shared taxi to Nita Pass. From Nita Pass one can walk or take a ropeway up to Mt. Myokendake. There is a platform with a gorgeous view at 1333m, from there you can either take the ropeway down again or choose to hike further up the volcano via a narrow mountain path. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t so great so I broke off my hike after about an hour when it started to become muddy due to the rain. It might be fine if you travel in a group, but since I was alone I decided it wasn’t worth the risk.

Back in downtown Unzen I wanted to warm myself and visited Iwaki Ryokan’s onsen. In total I visited 5 hot springs during my trip, but since this is the only one in the prefecture to be awarded the highest rating by the Japan Hot Spring Association, I figured it would be a nice treat after the cold hike. The entrance fee is rather on the expensive side with it being a ¥600 for adults, but I turned out to be the only guest at that particular hour and thus had a large onsen all to myself. I immediately noticed that the water quality was better than the other onsen I visited prior, my skin felt smooth and all my muscle aches disappeared within minutes. I took the afternoon bus back to Nagasaki wishing I could come back to Unzen more often. If you have the chance, take it and go!

To access Unzen from Nagasaki, please take the bus from Nagasaki station bus terminal with the direction ‘Obama, Unzen’. The drive will take 1 hour and 40 minutes and costs ¥1800 one way.