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Yu Akari – A Winter Illumination at Kurokawa Onsen: Video Introduction

This video, titled "Yu Akari 10-Year Anniversary Video" (湯あかり10周年記念動画), was uploaded by "Minamioguni Tourist Association" (南小国町観光協会).

This video chronicles the 10-year history of Yu Akari at Kurokawa Onsen in Aso, Kumamoto, in Japan's Kyushu region, starting from the winter of 2012 through 2022.

Yu Akari – A Winter Tradition at Kurokawa Onsen

Image of a  hot spring inn at Kurokawa Onsen
Photo:A hot spring inn at Kurokawa Onsen

Yu Akari began after the head of the Kurokawa Onsen Tourism Association, noticing that winter in Kurokawa was slow, decided to create an event that visitors could enjoy during the winter months as well.

The video shows the tranquil scenery of Kurokawa Onsen during winter.
[Video] 0:20 - Snow Falling and the Beautiful Sound of a Murmuring River

In modern Japan, dilapidated bamboo groves are becoming a problem all over the country. Kurokawa Onsen is no exception. The number of abandoned bamboo groves has been increasing, and is a constant source of concern.

Under such circumstances, Kurokawa Onsen made efforts to thin out and regenerate the bamboo forests in order to maintain the beautiful satoyama environment. The new tourist attraction Yu Akari is a part of these activities to combat dilapidated bamboo groves. In 2022, Yu Akari celebrated its 10th anniversary and is now spreading throughout the town of Minamioguni.

Starting something new is not an easy task in a tourist attraction known for its history, and sustaining it can be even more difficult. In Kurokawa Onsen, the younger generation has taken over the tradition of Kurokawa Onsen, with the strength from their predecessors, and has continued to create, nurture, and grow Yu Akari as a community.

Image of Yu Akari, Kurokawa Onsen
Photo:Yu Akari, Kurokawa Onsen

Yu Akari is an event in which bamboo lanterns of various shapes and sizes are lit up throughout the town. They are positioned and illuminated so that they blend in with the natural landscape of the town, such as along the river and at shrines. The faint illuminations blend into the cold winter air and have become popular in recent years for their photogenic nature.

You can see the director of the Kurokawa Onsen Tourism Association talking about the philosophy of the hot spring in the video.
[Video] 0:52 - Kurokawa Onsen – One Ryokan for the Entire Community

Event Dates and Illumination Hours for Kurokawa Onsen's Yu Akari

Image of Yu Akari, Kurokawa Onsen
Photo:Yu Akari, Kurokawa Onsen

For its 10-year anniversary, the event ran from Saturday, December 18, 2021 to Sunday, April 3, 2022. Illumination hours are from sunset to 10 p.m. Lights can be seen at several locations, including Marusuzu Bridge to Kawabata Street (川端通り, Kawabata-dori), near Yamabiko Ryokan (やまびこ旅館), Jizo Hall (地蔵堂, Jizo-dou), the Ryokan Association (旅館組合, Ryokan Kumiai), Kurokawa Onsen Bus Stop (黒川温泉バス停, Kurokawa Onsen Basu-tei), and Kurokawa Shrine (黒川温泉明神様, Kurokawa Onsen Myojin-sama).

Many couples can be seen enjoying an evening stroll, making it a sort of winter tradition in Kurokawa Onsen. The illumination event is generally held from around Christmas to the end of March, so be sure to check it out if you're visiting the area.

Enjoy the Breathtaking Illumination With a Stay at a Traditional Japanese Inn

Image of Kurokawa Onsen, Kumamoto Prefecture
Photo:Kurokawa Onsen, Kumamoto Prefecture

Kurokawa Onsen has a number of highly recommended hot spring resorts that are popular for their photogenic views. Below we'll introduce a few of them (in no particular order). Please contact the inns directly for information on accommodations and reservations during the Yu Akari illumination event.

Kurokawa Onsen – Yamabiko Ryokan
This inn is popular for its large open-air rock baths, referred to as "Sen'ninburo" (仙人風呂, "Immortal Baths"). There are also popular private baths that can be used freely and without charge. The dining space has tatami mats, sunken kotatsu, and standard tables for guests to choose from. The meals are centered on cuisine utilizing fresh, natural ingredients from the local mountains.

Kurokawa Onsen – Ikoi Ryokan
An inn famous for its hot springs which are said to promote beauty. It's also conveniently located near the hot spring resort. The meals consist of healthy Japanese cuisine using local vegetables harvested at the inn's private farm.

Ryokan Kounoyu
Ryokan Kounoyu has the deepest standing bath in Japan at 1.6 meters deep. All 9 guest rooms are detached from the main building, and all have open-air baths with free-flowing hot-spring water. Meals are prepared with an emphasis on local production for local consumption.

Summary of Kurokawa Onsen's Winter Illumination, Yu Akari

At Kurokawa Onsen, there are also hot spring tickets called "Nyuto Tegata" (入湯手形), which are valid for six months and allow visitors to choose three of the 27 open-air baths to bathe in during the six-month period. Since you can visit the baths on a day trip without staying overnight, these tickets are popular among hot spring lovers and people interested in the architecture of the hot spring inns, and you can even take one home as a souvenir. Of course, there are many other things to enjoy besides hot springs! While touring the hot springs, we recommend eating around the area as well. You can enjoy relaxing hot springs and delicious local cuisine at the same time.

Hopefully this information on Kurokawa Onsen's Yu Akari illumination, including hot spring inns, and tourist information on hot spring tickets, is useful for your visit to Kurokawa Onsen. Be sure to research popular inns and event information for Yu Akari before your visit!

【Official Website】Kurokawa Onsen Official Website|A Hot Spring Resort in Aso, Kumamoto

【TripAdvisor】Kurokawa Onsen

Written By
Last Updated : Dec. 9, 2022
I'm an upcyclist living on the tip of the Boso Peninsula.
Yu Akari – Experience the Stunning Winter Illumination at Kurokawa Onsen via Video! Discover the Fantastical Atmosphere That Warmly Embraces Visitors to Kumamoto Prefecture, and the Passion of the People of Kurokawa!
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