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Kurokawa

Tucked away in the centre of the southernmost main island of Kyushu, Kurokawa is an atmospheric hideaway devoted to hot spring baths. A series of historic traditional inns (ryokan) and public baths are dotted through this mercifully neon-free small town and tucked along the river beyond. Some were once upon a time enjoyed by feudal lords from Kumamoto castle. Newer ryokan such as the renowned Takefue are equally atmospheric with much care given to the authenticity of this quintessentially Japanese experience. Kurokawa's success in maintaining the look and feel of pre-modern Japan is partly due to preservation orders but largely because it is off the train network. The intrepid explorer can reach it by rental car (the Japanese drive on the left) or by public bus. Do not be surprised to be the only westerners in town, but be assured of Japan's famously high standards of hospitality despite the language barrier.

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