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Takeo Onsen Guide

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  • Relax in a hot spring at the 1,300 year-old Takeo Onsen, and take in the breathtaking scenery during any of the four seasons at Mifuneyama Rakuen garden.

    Takeo Onsen Romon Gate

    During our visit to Arita and Imari to learn about porcelains in Japan, we stayed in Takeo Onsen, about 10 miles away (15 km). Why did we stay so far away? Surprisingly, there aren’t many ryokan or hotel options nearby Arita that we could recommend to readers. Anyhow, we were happy to explore Takeo Onsen 武雄温泉, a hot spring town with a thousand years of history.

    Where is Takeo Onsen

    Takeo Onsen (in Takeo City) is east of Arita on the Sasebo Line and it’s a 17 min train ride or 22 min by car. Compared to Arita, there are many more commercial activities and options including hotels, rental cars, and restaurants.

    What to Do in Takeo Onsen

    view from the hilltop at Mifuneyama Rakuen

    Here is a list of things to do in Takeo City.

    1. Takeo Onsen Tower Gate 武雄温泉楼門
    2. Mifuneyama Rakuen Garden 御船山楽園
    3. Takeo Shrine 武雄神社
    4. Soak in an onsen (hot springs)
    5. Takeo City Library 武雄市図書館
    6. Saga Prefectural Space & Science Museum 佐賀県立 宇宙科学館 ゆめぎんが

    Note: We were short on time so we skipped the Space & Science Museum on our visit.

    Takeo Onsen Tower Gate 武雄温泉楼門

    The signature building in town is the tower gate (also called Takeo Onsen Romon) at the entrance to Takeo Onsen. It was designed and built by Dr. Kingo Tatsuno in 1914. Dr. Kingo Tatsuno also designed Tokyo Station’s signature brick building.

    Takeo Onsen Romon Gate at night
    Takeo Onsen Tower Gate

    As impressive as it looks, the vermillion tower gate was built without using a single nail!

    Here’s an interesting fact. When Dr. Kingo Tatsuno finished building Tokyo Station, the interior dome only had eight of the 12 zodiac symbols. The zodiac symbols representing the four directions are missing.

    Interior of the dome at Tokyo Station
    Zodiac symbol inside the circle at Tokyo Station dome

    It turns out he had placed the four missing zodiac symbols in the four corners of the Takeo Onsen Tower Gate. Such a cool story right? Dr. Kingo Tatsuno was born in nearby Karatsu, about 1 hour north of Takeo Onsen by car.

    Takeo Onsen public bath
    Takeo Onsen Motoyu

    The Takeo Onsen hot spring facility build in 1891 is currently the oldest in Japan. Besides the main motoyu, there are a few other bath options at the facility and they vary in cost and amenities provided. Takeo Onsen’s hot springs are known for its alkaline water that can help to heal skin conditions. Visitors often visit the onsen for Bijin-no-yu, or beautifying baths and for relaxation.

    Takeo Onsen Romontei
    Takeo Onsen Shinkan

    Next to the public bath is the Shinkan building. It currently houses a ceramic workshop, souvenir shop, and a museum on the history of Takeo Onsen.

    ceramic workshop at Takeo Onsen Romon
    Ceramic workshop

    Mifuneyama Rakuen 御船山楽園

    The second stop in Takeo City is the magnificent Mifuneyama Rakuen garden. The garden was built in 1845 by Nabeshima Shigeyoshi and spread over 120 acres (500,000 sq meters).

    entrance at Mifuneyama Rakuen

    The garden is known for the azalea hill in the spring during full bloom (over 200,00 azalea) and its cherry blossom scenery.

    the mountain at Mifuneyama Rakuen

    We were there in the summer and all the flowers were already gone. Nevertheless, the lush green terrain was no less impressive.

    tree and walking path at Mifuneyama Rakuen

    Once you enter the park, there are paved paths for visitors to walk on.

    pond and mountain at Mifuneyama Rakuen

    As we strolled around the pond, we noticed projectors set up all over Mifuneyama Rakuen. What’s going on? It turns out  TeamLab, the multitalented art group, transforms the garden for four months a year during the night time.

    projectors at Mifuneyama Rakuen
    Projectors at Mifuneyama Rakuen

    Here are some clips from TeamLab for Mifuneyama Rakuen.

    See the complete video collection at TeamLab Mifuneyama Rakuen.

    visitors at Mifuneyama Rakuen

    One of the paths leads visitors up the hill where you can experience the view from higher ground. Along the trail, we had to walk through maze-like shrubs that were lit with lights.

    path inside trees at Mifuneyama Rakuen
    Maze-like shrubs
    view from the hilltop at Mifuneyama Rakuen
    View from the hilltop at Mifuneyama Rakuen
    500 disciples of Buddha at Mifuneyama Rakuen
    500 disciples of Buddha inside a cave at Mifuneyama Rakuen

    If your schedule allows, we highly recommend visiting Mifuneyama Rakuen in the spring or when the TeamLab shows are playing.

    Takeo Shrine

    Our next stop is Takeo Shrine. The shrine is known for the 3,000-year-old camphor tree on the shrine grounds.

    couple cypress tree at Takeo Shrine
    Couples cypress tree

    At the entrance of Takeo Shrine is the “couples cypress”. The branches and the roots of the two trees are intertwined and praying to it is supposed to bring good luck for marriage, relationship, and business.

    torii gate at Takeo Shrine
    Torii gate

    The main hall of Takeo Shrine is white and cream, which is unusual as compared to the typical Shinto shrines that are red.

    Takeo Shrine main hall
    Takeo Shrine main hall

    There is a torii gate to the left of the main shrine leading to the giant camphor tree (武雄の大楠).

    torii gate to the sacred camphor tree at Takeo Shrine
    Torii gate to the sacred camphor tree

    The path was surrounded by well-manicured trees and beautiful hydrangea in full bloom. Further along, it goes through a bamboo forest where the scenery was straight out of a postcard.

    path to the sacred camphor tree at Takeo Shrine

    bamboo forest near sacred camphor tree at Takeo Shrine

    The camphor tree at Takeo Shrine is recognized as the 7th oldest tree in Japan. It is over 85 feet tall (27 meters). There is a shrine at the base of the tree for prayers.

    sacred camphor tree at Takeo Shrine
    Giant camphor tree

    Hotel Shunkeiya Takeo Onsen

    After a day of sightseeing, there is nothing better than soaking in an onsen. One of the highlights we look forward to on all our trips in Japan is staying in a ryokan to relax in the hot springs, dine on kaiseki ryori, and sleeping on an ofuton.

    exterior of Hotel Shunkeiya Takeo Onsen
    Hotel Shunkeiya
    lobby of Hotel Shunkeiya Takeo Onsen
    The lobby at Hotel Shunkeiya

    Our room at Hotel Shunkeiya was different from the standard ryokan room setup. It is a plain but spacious rectangular room without patio seating.

    guest room at Hotel Shunkeiya Takeo Onsen
    The guest room at Hotel Shunkeiya
    children in yukata
    Our children love wearing yukata

    After relaxing in our room and a quick soak in the hot springs, it’s time for dinner! When you stay at a Japanese ryokan, the typical dinner offered is kaiseki ryori.

    dining room at Hotel Shunkeiya Takeo Onsen

    Hotel Shunkeiya’s dinner featured local ingredients and the food was decent but not the best quality (if we were to be picky).

    kaiseki meal at Hotel Shunkeiya Takeo Onsen
    Kaiseki meal at Hotel Shunkeiya

    We stayed there for two nights and were served completely different dishes each dinner. Here are some of the highlights.

    mozuku salad at Hotel Shunkeiya Takeo Onsen
    Mozuku salad
    sashimi at Hotel Shunkeiya Takeo Onsen
    Assorted sashimi
    grilled beef and vegetables at Hotel Shunkeiya
    Grilled beef and vegetables
    noodle dish at Hotel Shunkeiya Takeo Onsen
    Asparagus pasta
    eel rice at Hotel Shunkeiya Takeo Onsen
    Eel rice
    fugu tataki at Hotel Shunkeiya Takeo Onsen
    Blowfish tataki

    Hotel Shunkeiya was in a convenient location and easily accessible. We were satisfied with its service, cleanliness, and amenities. However, we would have been happier if the food met our expectations.

    Takeo City Library

    Our last stop is the Takeo City Library. What? A city library? It’s actually one of the most popular tourist attractions in Takeo City.

    exterior of Takeo City Library

    Takeo City library completed a major renovation in 2013 and the modern building is super cool. Besides being a library, there’s also a Tsutaya bookstore inside along with a Starbucks.

    inside Takeo City Library

    More than 800,000 people visit the library each year and there are even signs showing visitors the best spots to take photos inside. The library also allows visitors to borrow books.

    inside Takeo City Library

    We hope you enjoyed our final post for the Arita and Imari area. Next, we are heading the Dutch theme park Huis Ten Bosch.

    If you are interested in exploring Kyushu, don’t miss our Kyushu travel guides.

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