Unzen, Nagasaki: 5 must-visit hotspots

by Yuki on 12 July 2017

Nagasaki is generally known for its historical sites like the Nagasaki Peace Park and Hashima (also called Gunkan Island). And the Huis Ten Bosch Theme Park too sees huge numbers of tourists every year. But if you like a summer getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life, you should come visit us at Unzen City – located on the Shimabara Peninsula at the eastern side of Nagasaki City.

5 spots you definitely shouldn’t miss:

1. Kazenomori

On your journey to Unzen from Nagasaki, do stop by the “Wind Forest” in Isahaya City. Discover quaint grocery stores, eateries, cafes and clothing shops – all surrounded by the beauty of nature. Shopping amongst flowers in full bloom, tucking in a delicious meal to the song of birds… the “Wind Forest” makes even a simple stroll an absolute joy.

Do check out “Zakka Michikusa” – a small shop built to look like a cute little hut in the forest. If you’re into Japanese-style accessories and handicrafts, you’ll totally love this little shop!

Blink and you might miss this well-hidden shop!

It has really high quality clothes and you have a quite a few options to purchase as souvenirs.

Don’t forget the wonderful “COZY” café as well. In fact, it’s such a popular hangout, the moment the clock strikes 11:30am and the doors open, the café is immediately packed with tourists. The building sports a very unique, eye-catching design that lets in the sun through its windows and bathes the entire space in natural light. Pretty extraordinary, huh?

While COZY offers main dishes like the hamburger plate (1,050 yen) and Deli & Curry (1,100 yen), there’s also a sweets menu with delights such as the Ichigo Milk Cake set (800 yen), parfaits (750 yen) and muffins (260 yen). The handmade cookies are wonderful too!

If anything, their food is as good as it looks!

341-1, Kankokita, Moriyama-cho, Isahaya-shi, Nagasaki

2. Hotaru (Firefly)

After entering Shimabara Peninsula and en route to the Unzen Onsen, you may pass by a local eatery called “Hotaru” bearing a watermill and all the signs of a Japanese home from older times. Inside the spacious dining room, you can choose to sit at the table, the counter, or on the floor mat. For the floor seats, every table has an in-built irori (sunken hearth), so you can enjoy special “irori cuisine” – like delicious fish grilled in the charcoal pit.

Hotaru offers mostly Unzen’s local delicacies and Japanese staples, as well as western dishes like hamburgers. The local specialty is called “Nyumen” – Shimabara hand-made wheat noodles served in hot soup. It’s said that spring water is specially flown in from the Mount Unzen to make these noodles. The elasticity of these “Nyumen” noodles makes them go really well with soup.

Just take a look at how appetizing it is!

After you leave Hotaru with a full belly, don’t forget to check out the nearby grocery shops selling fresh produce and local souvenirs.

They have some really good stuff there too!

1334-1, Kojirotei, Kunimi-cho, Unzen-shi, Nagasaki

3. Unzen Jigoku, “The Hell of Unzen”

It takes a long but worthwhile climb to get up to Unzen Onzen – 700 metres above sea level. As the temperature Is lower at such high altitudes, it’s been a well-known summer resort since ancient times. In August, the average temperature at Unzen Onsen is about 21.7°C, making it almost as cool as Hokkaido’s Sapporo!

Unzen Onsen has a special hot spring called Unzen Jigoku (Hell), because let’s face it: it’s more ‘hell’ than ‘hot spring’. Hot water gushes out continuously from cracks of rugged rocks and plunges the entire area in plumes of white steam and the strong stench of sulphur. Now with the renovated pathway, you can take a half-hour stroll to really drink in the view of this magnificent hellscape.

You should also try the famous onsen-boiled egg – cooked specially with “the steam from Hell”. The egg white is nice and chewy with a slight hint of sulphur scent.

雲仙地獄めぐり 雲仙市小浜町雲仙(おばままち うんぜん)320

320, Unzen, Obama machi, Unzen-shi

4. Yusenpei (baked pancakes)

Around Unzen Onsen, you’ll discover a sign that says “Unzen Specialty Yusenpei” and a sweet scent drifting out this shop called “Toutomiya”. Yusenpei is a simple pancake baked from a mixture of wheat flour, eggs, sugar and hot spring water, and it’s considered to be a famous Unzen specialty. While most Yusenpei ismade at the factory, here at the entrance of “Toutomiya”, a chef skilfully hand-bakes one Yusenpei after another. The craftsmanship is pretty impressive!

Just watching them work their magic was very satisfying.

Next to the baking area, you’ll find a blackboard where the instructions for making Yusenpei are written. They light the gas oven at 7 am in the morning, and it takes about an hour for the cake mould to be heated up. That would mean the first batch of piping hot Yusenpei comes out around 9:45am, so take note, hungry people!

At 80 yen a piece, the Yusenpei is thin and crispy with a chewy fringe all round it. It may sport some burned areas, but well, that’s something you’ll only get from an authentic, hand-made delicacy.

317, Unzen, Obama-cho, Unzen-shi, Nagasaki

5. Nita Toge

If you want stunning sceneries, simply catch a 20-minute ride from Unzen Onsen that will take you upwards over 11.3 kilometres of road to the beautiful Nita Toge. Here, every season brings its own spectacle: the magenta azaleas of spring, the rich greenery of summer, the auburn leaves of autumn, and the white mists of winter.

From Nita Pass, you can see Fugendake, one of the grand peaks on the volcanic Mount Unzen. On a clear day, you may even be able to look out all the way to Kumamoto Prefecture. You can also take the cable car from Nita Toge and enjoy a nice ride all the way up to Mount Myokendake, which stands at a height of 1,333 metres. The ride takes only 3 minutes over a distance of 500 metres, making the whole trip feel like a delightful walk in the sky. From the top of Mount Myokendake, you can catch the breath-taking view of Amakusa Islands and the Kyushu mountains.

320, Unzen, Obama-cho, Unzen-shi, Nagasaki

One more tip: If you’re looking for accommodation, rest assured that there‘re lots of hotels and motels around Unzen Onsen. I’ll suggest you visit the onsen, have a good soak, and get rid of any fatigue from your trip. On the east side of Unzen City, there’re also ferries sailing from Shimabara to Kumamoto. So when you’re all refreshed and ready, you can always wander off for more adventures!