A Magical Trip to Yufuin, Japan (Yufuin no Mori)
One of the things I love most about traveling in Japan is their trains. During my trip to Fukuoka, I decided to hope on the Yufuin no Mori train (Yufuin’s Forest Train) to visit the mountain town of Yufuin for the day.
I went to Hakata Station the day before to reserve my ticket. You can purchase them from a staff member in the green ticket area and most of the staff can speak English. I already knew what trains I wanted to get on (find the time table here) so it was a quick transaction. Unfortunately, the window seats were taken so I booked an aisle seat both ways and was all set for the next day!
Here’s my ticket: Train 1, Car 5, Row 4, Seat C.
Luckily no one ended up being in the window seat next to me so I was able to take in the views uninterrupted the entire way. The staff often comes through with signs telling you which side to look out of in order to catch a peak at a waterfall or particularly gorgeous mountain.
We arrived on time, giving me a little over 4 hours to explore the small town.
The street is lined with stores, but most have a no photography policy. There was a lot of Studio Ghibli (though all of the items can be purchased at other Studio Ghibli stores around the world), handmade glassware, ceramics, and wood working. I particularly like the music box shop above the “Glass Forest.”
Another thing you can’t help but notice is that the entire city smells like dessert. There are waffle shops on every corner, food trucks, bakeries, cafes, you name it. I stopped at Milch to get an amazing cup of cheesecake. You can get it served hot or cold and I loved the cool treat!
At the end of the road was Kirin Lake, and it did not disappoint. The lodge at the far end of the lake made you feel as if you stumbled into some part of Switzerland rather than Japan. Admittedly, it did get crowded with tour groups just after I arrived, but it was still beautiful. There is a small shrine near the lodge that was very peaceful and a park that was so alarming green my camera almost couldn’t focus!
For lunch I visited Izumi Soba which had a bit of a line but I only waited about 5 minutes. The staff was nice enough to give me a window seat and I ordered the basic soba meal which was two huge portions of soba (you couldn’t get anything smaller!)
The broth/sauce was a lot stronger than I’m used to so don’t go dunking your noodles like I did the first time. It just needs a really quick dip :) The menu was available in English and my meal was about 1200yen (about $12)
After shopping a bit more and grabbing some ice cream and iced tea, I got on my train home. It was actually delayed about an hour which is unheard of in Japan but there was some sort of mechanical issue on the track. The staff was really helpful and took care of me because I was pretty much the only person at the station that wasn’t Japanese or Chinese (the station master spoke enough Chinese to communicate but with English we did a lot of body language.)
We arrived back in Fukuoka in time for me to grab dinner and head home to sleep!
Honestly, the trip was worth it just for the gorgeous train ride. Yufuin felt quite a bit touristy and was really focused on its gift shops, but I enjoyed the quiet corners I could find there. Overall, a successful day trip!