mountain springs and sights to sigh over
Weekend drives and hot spring soaks must be two all-time favorite Japanese pastimes. If you don’t believe us, just flip on the telly or check any bookstore both are brimful with up-to-date reports on both. Autumn is a top season for driving out to peaceful springs and sampling various regional delicacies on the way (another Japanese delight). Yabakei is one spot you might just like to earmark for such a visit this year.
Straddling the border of Fukuoka and Kumamoto Prefectures, Yabakei is best known for its towering rocky cliffs that seem straight out of a Chinese ink painting, framed by emerald-green forests that turn a brilliant red-and-gold in late October and early November. Hitome Hakkei, an outcrop flanking Highway 28, makes for especially awesome viewing. Its name translates as “eight sights in one glimpse,” and you can see why by taking in its eight rocky peaks at the observation deck here.
Yabakei is also famous for its soba noodles. Made with water from pure mountain streams, local soba is served by most eateries in a tasty broth topped with creamy grated yamaimo (yams). Other Yabakei delicacies include buckwheat manju (dumplings) and yuzu-gosho (citrus-infused pepper). Yabakei is quite a hike from Fukuoka, and the narrow mountain roads can be conjested on weekends. De-fuse any travel stress with a blissful, long soak at one of its 16 hot spring establishments, whose steaming waters are sourced from some 12 springs. It’s not until you’ve driven around, imbibed and finally soaked in Yabakei’s numerous delights that you’ll have had a truly Japanese countryside experience.