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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Kyushu Spring 2014 九州春天之旅 - Kurokawa Onsen 黒川温泉, Shirotamakko 白玉っ子, Doradora どらどら

Visited 21.03.2014, 22.03.2014


Hidden gem. Located in Kumamoto Prefecture, Kurokawa Onsen is a hidden gem that I uncovered during this trip. You will be captivated by its serenity upon arrival. Absence of high rise buildings, only traditional Japanese style houses surrounded by mountains. Chikugo river passes through this small hot spring town, filled with ryokans, eateries and shops. The entire town is fairly small, not too commercialised nor touristy yet, and can be covered within a couple of hours. My advice is don't rush and just your time pass slowly here. A stay in this tranquil town is simply rejuvenating and do wonders to a person's health and mood - stepping out from the hasty pace of life in a growing city. Kurokawa Onsen is a place I miss most from this trip and will surely visit again.

Onsen hopping pass. Otherwise known as Nyuto Tegata (入湯手形) cost 1,300 yen and allows visitors to try out 3 different hot spring bath at any 24 participating ryokans in Kurokawa Onsen. The usage of hot spring facility normally cost between 500 to 600 yen, therefore purchasing this pass is an economical way to try out different rotenburo. Valid for 6 months, this wooden pass can be hung around the neck and will be stamped each time you visit a different bath. Bought one but was not keen in the onsen hopping activity. Brought it back as a souvenir instead.

Top right: Jizoudou, a shrine in Kurokawa Onsen
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Highlights:


Shirotamakko 白玉っ子
Opening hrs: 0930 - 1800 hrs
http://kurokawa.siratamattko.com/

This was the first place we visited after checking in to Ryokan Wakaba. If you are a fan of Japanese glutinous rice balls, this is a cafe to visit to savour their desserts. Served either hot or cold, these colourful balls can be eaten together with soy bean powder or sweet red bean paste. Ordered the seasonal set which comprised of a bowl of matcha, five mochi balls with fragrant tanba kuromame powder (black soybean) and a scoop of strawberry flavoured ice cream - a delectable dessert set to celebrate the arrival of spring!



Left: Shiro Croquette from Warokuya; Right: Mochi dorayaki from Doradora.
Doradora どらどら, located beside Jizoudou (地蔵堂).
Opening hrs: 0930 - 1800 hrs; Sat, Sun and Public Holidays: 0900 - 1800 hrs
http://kurokawa-kaze.com/index.html

Red bean pancake or dorayaki are commonly found in Japan. In Doradora, a twist was made to this traditional Japanese snack. If you can consume the food on the spot, sandwich a scoop of ice-cream between the pancakes and red bean paste. I bought one that was pre-packed - pancake surface was stamped with a picture similar to the one on the wooden onsen hopping pass, and ice-cream was replaced with mochi, but only ate it after departure from Kurokawa Onsen. What caught me by surprise was that the mochi was stuffed with sweet cream too. The various layers blended well harmoniously together with every bite: the eggy pancake, crunchy red bean paste, chewy mochi and smooth cream filling! How I wish I could have bought a few more pieces! 

Top left: the very popular Patisserie Roku; Top right: Completed onsen hopping pass hung outside Jizoudou.
... and more food! 
Explored Kurokawa Onsen again after breakfast. Did a leisure stroll along the onsen street, stopping by shops to look for unique souvenirs and food stalls to grab a quick snack. In one morning (despite after breakfast), we had fragrant and flavoured rice crackers, honey soft serve and Kumamoto pork croquette (from Warokuya わろく屋). Saw a small crowd at a confectionery - Patisserie Roku, which is famous for their Swiss roll. Squeezed into the shop but left empty handed because Swiss roll here were not sold in slices. After trying out the delicious Swiss roll from the extremely popular B Speak confectionary in Yufuin on the following day, I was already thinking how good Patisserie Roku's would turn out to be...

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Kurokawa Onsen 黒川温泉
黒川温泉観光旅館協同組合 インフォメーションセンター
869-2402 熊本県阿蘇郡南小国町黒川さくら通り
http://www.kurokawaonsen.or.jp/

How to get there?

By bus: Kyushu Odan Bus 九州横断バス
A very useful bus service that commutes between Kumamoto and Beppu, and stops at Aso JR Station, Mt Aso West Station (ropeway station), Kurokawa Onsen and Yufuin. Utiltised this bus service from Mt Aso West Station to visit Kurokawa Onsen. On the following day, I took the same bus from Kurokawa Onsen to Yufuin.
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Video: Scroll to 20:10 for 遇约九州's feature on Kurokawa Onsen. 

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