Yamashika City is located in the northern part of Kumamoto Prefecture and is famous for its onsens and the many sights and festivals such as, Yachioza and the Yamashika Torou Festival. Of the Yamashika Onsen, Hirayama Onsen and Kumairi Onsen, Hirayama Onsen is the rising star of onsens in Kyushu!
Hirayama Onsen is famous for its slippery water’s beautifying properties. These last few years have seen an increase in unique restaurants and onsen facilities opening up. This time we visit Yamato Ryokan which is very famous for its tofu menu as well as its onsen.
Yamato Ryokan famous for its onsen and tofu menu!
Hirayama Onsen is located next to the Iwamura River which feeds into the Kikuikegawa River, about 7km from Yamashika City, and has many small inns and onsen facilities. The onsen boasts over a 1200 year old history of use and is well known as a medicinal onsen.
Traveling up a small road through quaint rice field scenery, you get to Yamato Ryokan. It has been a tofu maker for generations but in 1989 they started a small inn.
Standing on grounds that are shrouded in greenery, there is the main building, annex, dining hall, and the outdoor onsen bath. The most appealing part here is the thatched roof building of the annex which has an attractive air to it with each room having an outdoor bath or a semi-outdoor bath attached to them.
The feel of the dining hall Shokujidokoro Warabi is built like an old fashioned Japanese home and definitely has atmosphere to it. The path to the dining hall is surrounded by nature and you can really enjoy new scenery by the season.
Although you can enjoy just a meal here, we recommend using the day trip rest plan where you can rest between the hours of 11am and 3pm and really relax in a leisurely fashion.
A smooth Onsen Tofu
The meal here is prepared using hot spring water, with the fresh tofu made every morning as the center of attention. The meal in the day trip rest plan consisted of pork shabu shabu, lava stone grilled horse or beef. We take a look at the highly recommended pork shabu shabu with tofu.
The appetizer was a tofu sashimi, fish sashimi, soy milk, and a flat form tofu. The onsen tofu should be eaten with just salt sprinkled on top for the first bite to really taste the flavor. You can definitely taste the umami of the tofu.
After this drop it into the soy milk stew with a choice of either a sesame seed sauce or just some condiments. The special local brand pork “Kumamoto no Rindo Pork” is truly tasty.
Soy milk pudding, popular as a gift
Other than the previously mentioned dishes you will be served steamed egg custard, Soy Pulp Croquettes, and a tofu au gratin, all of which allow you to really fill yourself with a variety of tofu dishes. The rice that’s served is deliciously cooked local rice called Nanohanamai, which is rice that is grown using soft stem broccoli as the main fertilizer. The Gojiru miso soup is also not to be overlooked.
After the meal is a coffee and a soy milk pudding. The soy milk pudding is very rich and creamy with dark honey that really fits perfectly with this dish and is popular as a gift item. You can also buy the onsen tofu, fried tofu, and soy pulp croquettes that you can take home as gifts. If you still have some space left try the fried tofu which is crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside.
Fully enjoy the slippery water of the beautifying bath!
Next up is the long awaited onsen bath. The large bath house is located in the main building and the large tub is split into 2 parts, with the water the hottest near the spout. The water has a sulfur aroma and really feels slippery on the skin and almost feels like it wraps onto you. They say you can expect this water to clear up skin as well as that it has medicinal properties.
Separate from the bath house is the outdoor bath. It is outside of the building so you have to don your clothes again to get there but it is definitely worth it as the location is spectacular. Hidden in a grove is the outdoor bath with the men’s being built with boulders and the women’s using stones.
You can enjoy bathing in these great waters and enjoy the woods at the same time to relax to the max. After bathing your skin becomes moisturized and smooth. There is no doubt you will want to bathe here again.
[Onsen Data] Water type/ alkaline basic sulfate hot spring Source water temperature/ 53 degrees Celsius
The best snack, Umauma Croquette
Close by to Yamato Ryokan is the Basashiya Shomei which serves the local delicacy of horse meat. Starting with the highly marbled meat to red meat, there is also a vacuum packed charcoal grilled horse meat, horse meat pastrami, and smoked horse tongue.
The number one snack here is the Umauma Croquette which uses horse meat! It is so popular now that on weekends they sell 200 of these a day. It is packed with stewed horse meat and is flavored like meat and potato stew. They are reasonably priced at 135 JPY a piece so try one. There is also an eat-in corner for you to eat these delicacies.
[Shop Data] Basashiya Shomei Hours: 9:30am to 6:30pm, first and third Thursday’s day off
So what do you think of Yamato Ryokan?
The best option is to stay the night and really explore every facet of this place but, you can still experience a lot in the day trip rest plan, perfect for just a taste of the wonders here. Feast on the tasty tofu dishes, bathe in the beauty water, and come relax at Hirayama Onsen.
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