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Set your travel planning to autopilot and — if you are in northern Kyushu in need of the thermal succor only a hot-spring bath can lend — you are sure to be drawn by the gravitational pull of Beppu, the brash town in Oita Prefecture that is the onsen king of Japan and knows it.

But wise travelers in search of a more serene bathing experience, combined with a proximity to nature that’s consigned to Beppu’s distant past, will set the controls full speed ahead to a place not so far up the road. They will head for Yufuin.

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