Kikuchigawa Onsen is the collective name of all the hot spring resorts including but not limited to Yamaga Onsen, Hirayama, Tamana Onsen, Ueki Onsen, and Kikuchi Onsen along the Kikuchi River that flows through northern Kumamoto Prefecture in Kyushu.
The origin of Yamaga Onsen is “Sakurayu,” a historic hot spring bath which boasts mild water called “maiden’s skin.” There is a foot bath along Buzen Road, where you can soak your feet in the hot springs that will relax and warm the body as well.
The road north from Kumamoto to Kita-Kyushu/Kokura in Kumamoto Prefecture is called Buzen Road. The hot spring town in this area prospered as a way station for daimyo (warlords) to stay during the Edo period (1603-1867). Visitors these days enjoy strolling in the town, relaxing at a restaurant and shopping in one of the many shops in the old merchants’ houses. Yachiyo-za is a kabuki theater that was built more than 100 years ago. The theater has retained the style ands arts of the Edo period and is designated a national important cultural asset.
A variety of events take place in Yamaga and among the many is the Yamaga Tourou (Lantern Festival), an elegant event held every August. During the festival, the entire town is lit with Japanese paper lanterns. In February, the Yamaga Tourou Roman Festival is held every Friday and Saturday of the month, creating a fantastic atmosphere throughout the town.
Yamaga tourou (lanterns) are made in the traditional manner by local artisans. They are made with washi (Japanese paper) using a minimum amount of glue. New ones are made each year and dedicated to Yamaga Tourou Festival in August.
The Yamaga Lantern Folkcraft Museum, housed in a sophisticated yet nostalgic Western-style building, has a display of the materials and information on Yamaga lanterns.