Nestled in the forested mountains of Oita prefecture, Yufu is a small town known for its fairytale-like charm. Complete with an abundance of character goods shops, unique animal cafes, and several museums, Yufu is full of exciting activities to fill your day. Just an hour’s drive away from the popular hot springs city Beppu, it’s the perfect day trip to escape the city.
Begin your day with a refreshing walk around the perimeter of the picturesque Lake Kinrin. Naturally warm due to underground hot springs, the lake is famous for the steam that rises from it in the mornings. It's particularly gorgeous during autumn when the surrounding foliage is dappled in fall colors. At the southern end of the lake, there’s a small shrine where visitors can pray.
Head over to the Comico Art Museum, a modern art and design museum housed in a sleek black building designed by architect Kengo Kuma. The exterior is made from roasted cedar wood and blends into the surrounding landscape, emphasizing the beauty of the nearby Mt. Yufu. Inside, the museum’s collection features work from the renowned Japanese artists Yayoi Kusama, Yoshitomo Nara, Takashi Murakami, and several others.
If you’re feeling peckish, meander over to the Yufu Floral Village. Along the way, you’ll pass through busy shopping streets lined with food vendors, character goods shops, and other knick-knack boutiques. The most popular street is Yunotsubo Street, which connects Lake Kinrin with Yufuin Station. Notably, one of two Miffy bakeries in Japan is located in Yufu, as well as a Snoopy cafe, a Ghibi-themed store, and even an owl cafe. We recommend spending a few hours meandering through the surrounding streets, rummaging through the extensive collection of shops, and picking up a snack or two.
For a more substantial meal, try Pizzeria Kunugi No Oka, which serves wood-fired pizza with a slight Japanese twist, or thetheo, an elegant dining space connected to the artegio Art Museum that offers lunch sets and highly photogenic desserts.
In the afternoon, check out another one of Yufu’s many museums. For the history buff, the Yufuin Showa Museum contains recreated versions of interior spaces from the post-WWII era, including a barber shop, classroom, family living room, and many more. For car lovers, the Yufuin Retro Motor Museum houses a collection of rare classic cars and motorbikes. For a truly interactive experience, Trick 3D Art invites guests to take amusing pictures playing with optical illusions.
For dinner, head to one of the must-visit restaurants in the area, Yufu Mabushi Shin at the Yufuin Ekimae Branch. Yufu Mabushi Shin is known for its donburis, or rice bowls, topped with eel, chicken, or the region’s specialty Bungo beef. When it comes time to eat, diners are first encouraged to eat the dish plain, then seasoned with yuzu pepper and pickled vegetables, then with broth stirred in. Served piping hot, the food here is the perfect balance between refinement and comfort.
About the author:
Britney Budiman (@booritney) is a writer, minimalist, aspiring effective altruist, and runner-in-progress with a penchant for saying “yes.” Previously, she has worked in Cambodia at a traditional arts NGO, in Brazil as a social sciences researcher, and in San Francisco at a housing start-up. She currently lives in the countryside of Kagoshima, Japan, where she teaches English. Her favorite thing in the world is good conversation.