Located roughly midway between Fukuoka and Oita is Sanso Tensui, a serene yet welcoming onsen ryokan. With several outdoor baths, impeccably prepared kaiseki cuisine and luxurious rooms to play with, there’s enough here for a relaxing weekend away from it all.
Onsen in Amagase are known for being right on the river, which means not all of them offer a lot of privacy. However, Sanso Tensui is further down a tributary of the main river so its baths are quite secluded, with the ryokan’s forest location providing the perfect canopy. It’s just one of the features that exemplifies Sanso Tensui’s emphasis on omotenashi, or Japanese hospitality.
Guests have the option of choosing from three different types of rooms. The Japanese-style rooms are generously sized with space for two to five people. A step up are the “superior” rooms, which all come with access to an open-air bath and private veranda. Those looking for the ultimate luxurious getaway can try one of the three types of premium rooms, which have spacious tatami mat areas, and a private bath. All of the rooms exude traditional Japanese style, without skimping on comfort.
If you’re looking to soak up even more, the hotel has access to several other baths as well. Regardless of which onsen you’re in, all of them are fed by slightly sulfuric, 100 percent natural spring water, which is said to do wonders for strained muscles, fatigue, beautifying skin and aiding recovery from illness. To add to the natural splendor, the baths all have views of the Goraku River. Each season brings its own vista: think cherry blossoms in spring, or fiery leaves in autumn.
One of the more special baths is just a staircase away. Known as Takimian, this open-air bath overlooks the famed 20m-tall Sakuradaki, or Sakura waterfall. You’ll have to climb a long set of steps to get there, but the view is certainly worth it, with the main bath, plus separate open-air baths for women and men, located at the top of the hill. Relaxation doesn’t get much better than this.
Back in the main building, Sanso Tensui’s spin on omotenashi continues with their creative kaiseki dishes. The head chef trained under Kitcho Senba in Osaka, the birthplace of kaiseki cuisine, before he was appointed to his position in Fukuoka by Senba and started using local ingredients to showcase the best of the season. Here, that means the flavors of Bungo, the name for the old province in which Amagase Onsen is located. The region is famed for its namesake Bungo beef, Oita’s umami-rich jidori chicken and meaty shiitake. These and other ingredients are then cooked to perfection, using different techniques for each one, to bring out the utmost flavor. All of that is then presented in 10 courses, served for both breakfast and dinner.
If you need a break from leisurely bathing or spoiling yourself with extravagant meals, you can also kick back at the ryokan’s Lounge Hakurakuten. It functions as a café during the day and transforms into a bar at night; perfect if you prefer a coffee in the morning and something stronger at night.
With soothing baths, exquisite food and serene nature all in one place, you’re in for a treat at Sanso Tensui. Kyushu has always been known for its hot springs, but here you’ll find that natural quirk married with human warmth too. Sit back and spend some time enjoying true hospitality.
More info at www.tensui.net