Steam billows up at Unzen Onsen! A relaxing stay at a classical hotel

Review of Unzen Kanko Hotel | Obamacho Unzen 320
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Kyoko
Updated Jun 12, 2017

Unzen Onsen is located 727m above sea level on Nagasaki Prefecture’s Shimabara Peninsula. Unzen is Japan’s first national park established in 1934, and has been summer resort for foreigners for ages. This time we introduce a tour package where you explore Unzen Jigoku (Unzen Hell) where steam billows up, bathe in an onsen where the scent of sulfur fills the air, and where you can taste the fruits the seas and mountains surrounding Shimabara Peninsula.

Exploring Unzen Jigoku

Originally Unzen was a way of reading the kanji for onsen, but when it became a national park the kanji was changed to the current form. Right by the onsen resort town is Unzen Jigoku where the smell of sulfur is in the air and steam billows up from the ground making it look like hell on earth.

Exploring “hell” here during your sightseeing of Unzen is highly recommended. There are many “hells” here such as Oitojigoku, Jyamijigoku, Daikyoukanjigoku, Hachimanjigoku, Kiyoshichijigoku, and Shojigoku, some of which are used as springs for the inns. There are some “hells” where the water bubbles up while others rumble like a sound like a furnace which are impressive to look at.

There is a foot path for visitors and they sell eggs boiled in the hot spring water. There are also small arbors and benches where you can rest up and snack during your exploration. The onsen boiled eggs also have a strong sulfur smell.

See our full list of recommended hotels in unzen and also compare the prices with airbnbs in unzen

The historic Unzen Kanko Hotel of cultural importance

The Unzen Kanko Hotel was established in 1935 as a resort hotel for foreigners. From the front gate the road is lined with trees. At the end of the road is a red roofed building built like a Swiss chalet.

The interior is impressive and has a classic atmosphere to it. On the ceiling are very thick wooden beams, and the hand built stairs are the same since the hotel was built. Everything is well maintained and the history of the hotel shines through. In 2003 it has been recognized as a building of high cultural importance.

It has undergone 5 years of restoration since 2004, and all the rooms have been completely renewed. While paying homage to the architecture and design of the original the rooms have been redone with the concept of “new nostalgia” and while nostalgic in atmosphere it is elegant and fresh.

There are welcome treats specially made by the patissier such as cookies and macaroons, and at the gift shop you can buy unique items at the gift shop. The handmade cookie, madeleine, financier pack is a favorite among guests. After a brief rest and snacks, head to the onsen.

See our full list of recommended hotels in unzen and also compare the prices with airbnbs in unzen

Soak in a high class sulfur scent

During the renovation the bath (sulfur spring bath) has also been redone. The bath house has a domed ceiling, stained glass in the doors, art deco style tiles, masterfully mixing the old and new. Although small there is also an outdoor bath as well that has a lot of character.

The hot water for rinsing off comes out of a lion head shaped spout, and the scent of sulfur is strong. You can relax in a healing chair while listening to the soothing music. After soaking in the luxurious water you can loosen up to forget all the stresses of your daily life.

[Onsen data] Acidic, sulfur containing aluminum, sulfide hot spring. Temperature is 93.5℃ Use of the bath only is prohibited. Diners can bathe for 1050 JPY 11am to 5pm

See our full list of recommended hotels in unzen and also compare the prices with airbnbs in unzen

The dining room which still looks like it did when it opened

With 330sqm of area the dining room is spacious and has high ceilings while keeping a subdued atmosphere. The furniture and chandelier are the same ones used since the hotel first opened. Back when this was a summer retreat for foreigners this dining hall was used for dance parties and a cultural exchange hub for dignitaries, and economic leaders who were all elegantly dressed.

There are different guest packages such as the anniversary plan, couples plan, ladies plan, and the French dinner in the dining room is very popular as well. This is bound to be a memorable trip if you dress up a little for an elegant dinner. After dinner you can enjoy some original cocktails at the long established bar.

See our full list of recommended hotels in unzen and also compare the prices with airbnbs in unzen

The chef's pride highland French dinner, using only local ingredients

The meal consists of ingredients that are locally produced only for local consumption, some of which are very unique to Unzen with your choice of French or Japanese food. The French dinner is focused on an immaculate special wagyu fillet grilled over high grade charcoal, and seasonal vegetables from the Shimahara highlands, and not to mention the allure of the dessert wagon afterwards. For breakfast you can choose Japanese or western foods too, and there is a buffet corner too. You definitely shouldn’t miss the chef’s special eggs benedict.

There is also a lunch menu with special organic vegetables, fresh fish caught in Tachibana Bay, and select meat dish course, or a smaller volume diet course. The traditional beef curry which hasn’t changed since the doors first opened as well as the Unzen venison Unsen Burger set is popular too. Dining in this atmosphere makes you feel very pampered.

See our full list of recommended hotels in unzen and also compare the prices with airbnbs in unzen

Conclusion

There are many onsen inns here at Unzen Onsen but if you prefer classic hotel atmospheres, the Unzen Kanko Hotel is definitely recommended. Enjoy the many faces of Unzen such as early summer the Miyamakirishima blooms, in autumn the leaves changing, and in winter take in the trees covered in silver frost. If you make Unzen Onsen central to your trip to Shimahara Peninsula you can easily visit such sites as the lava dome Heisei Shinyama at Fugendake, Obama Onsen, Shimahara Castle, Shimahara springs, and ruins of samurai houses so it is definitely a good choice to visit here.

This article was originally published on Sep 23, 2015

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