Hugging Tachibana Bay on the Shimabara Peninsula, Unzen is a small city on the edge of one of Japan’s most spectacular volcanic landscapes. The nearby Mount Unzen provides a source of water for the country’s hottest onsen and creates otherworldly landscapes of steaming gases.
Things to do in Unzen
Bath in some of Japan’s hottest hot spring waters at the Obama Onsen, which was established back in 713 AD and appeared in Saito Mokichi’s poem “Sunset Plaza”. Watch the sunset over the waters of Tachibana Bay and feast on Obama Chanpon, a dish featuring noodles and local seafood.
Visit the Unzen Jigoku or “Unzen Hell”, a hotspot of volcanic activity where steaming water and gases spout out of the earth to create a surreal spectacle. Follow the wood and brick walkways that lead through this sulphur-infused landscape, backed by the forested slopes of Mount Unzen.
Learn about the natural and geological history of Mount Unzen at the Heisei Shinzan Nature Center. Follow one of the walking trails that radiate from the centre to admire the sweeping mountain vistas and learn how it’s being monitored to prevent eruption disasters.
Want a longer walk? Hit one of the hiking trails in Unzen-Amakusa National Park, which centres around Mount Unzen. Ride the Unzen Ropeway up the mountain slope and take in the rugged views from the observation deck, then follow the ridge to Fugendake to see the smoking summit of Heisei Shinzan.
Getting around Unzen
Unzen is around 1.5 hours’ drive from Nagasaki and one hour from Nagasaki Airport. Buses travel throughout the region, but having your own vehicle offers more flexibility.