There are many onsen towns in Japan, and every prefecture has something unique to offer. They are all different in some special way. The onsen in Nagano are very rustic and natural, blending in with nature and the snowy mountains. In Kyushu we have the big onsen city of Beppu, with its “seven hells”. As for the Kansai region, without a doubt, the highlight is Kinosaki Onsen. Kinosaki Onsen is found in Hyougo, right on the coast of the Sea of Japan. This makes Kinosaki Onsen famous for more than just hot springs, but also seafood. Kinosaki Onsen is especially famous for “kani”, which is crab. The soft shell crab in Kinosaki Onsen is to die for.
Reaching Kinosaki Onsen is very convenient if you have the JR Pass, as direct services run from Osaka or Kyoto stations. These trains take about 2 and a half hours, and would cost you between 4000 to 5000 yen if you were paying for it. On the other hand if you can’t use the JR pass for whatever reason, student visa, traveling with Japanese friends… put your ticket through the wash… whatever it may be, you can get there on local trains too.
Going via local train is a fairly painless ordeal with few transfers, costing only 2500 yen. It is a long trip at around 3.5 hours, but the scenery is very nice and the trains are very comfortable. They are even equipped with toilets.
The first thing we do when getting off at Kinosaki Onsen is head to the Ashi-yuu at Satono-yu.
This excellent foot bath is very beautiful and also free to use.
The main attraction of Kinosaki Onsen is of course its 7 bath houses. Each bath house costs between 600 to 800 yen to enter, but fortunately if you are staying at a ryokan in the town, you should get an all entry ticket for free. Make sure that your accommodations include this ticket before you book! Alternatively a day pass can be bought at any bathhouse for around 1200 yen.
Of the seven bathhouses, I managed to visit just four. Whilst it might be best to visit all seven for the sake of completion… don’t you think a relaxing holiday at an onsen town should be enjoyed leisurely? I think it’s best to enjoy Kinosaki at your own pace, rather than racing to see each bath. On the other hand though each bath is different, so please do as you wish!
The first bathhouse I visited was Kono-yu, on the far side of the town. Of the four I managed to see, this was easily my favorite one. The outdoor bathing area was really fantastic, with views of the mountains that encase Kinosaki Onsen.
Next we headed back toward the main road toward the Mandara-yu bathhouse. It’s located a little off the main road, less than 2 minutes by foot. The bathhouse itself looks spectacular, but the inside is a little small. It has a small outdoor wooden bathtub, which feels really nice but can be a bit competitive. It is said that the hot spring water that Mandara-yu uses suddenly sprung after a monk prayed for 900 days at Onsen-ji temple.
Next to Mandara-yu there is a small Shrine to Inari, and an attractive little garden.
After bathing at those two bathhouses, we spent a little time looking at the souvenir shops. The standard fair is available but I recommend a sembei shop called “Ebinoya”. I bought some Wasabi ebi sembei from here are it was incredibly delicious. Do yourself a favor and try all the free samples they have, and then grab your favorite.
As Kinosaki Onsen is located on the Sea of Japan, the seafood is incredibly fresh and delicious. This translates into a good selection of seafood restaurants scattered around the town. Although, most seem to be near the train station. Alternatively, you could just get a dinner package with your ryokan.
I can say the seafood I had at Kinosaki was the best I’ve ever had and the kani sushi (crab sushi) was especially mouthwatering. The price was also very cheap for the quality, so you can eat without holding back.
After dinner we headed to Ichino-yu bathhouse. The interesting thing about Ichino-yu is the outdoor bath is actually in a cave! It was a really cool experience and it reminded me of a game called “Muramasa Rebirth”. Then I started thinking if in the future we can still take onsen baths in caves of real natural stone… That is to say you do a lot of thinking in onsens, usually about nothing important. It’s nice.
My final destination was Goshono-yu. Easily the most impressive from the outside, we decided to leave it for last. Fortunately the inside lives up to the impression the building gives. Goshono-yu has a very beautiful outdoor bath complete with a waterfall and granite chairs. There is also an onsen water sauna and the indoor baths have some jets.
Aside from the bathhouse and dinner, another thing to enjoy a shooting game where you might win prizes. Try to aim for the head to push the statue over, and don’t be afraid to lean in as close as possible. After you run out of bullets, the staff will count your hits and you can choose a prize.
Finally we headed back to the ryokan for an early night sleep. I did see a bar which looked like it could be fun, but it was closed when I went back around 23:00! I guess there isn’t much of a night life because Kinosaki Onsen is quite romantic after all…
In the morning we headed to the Kinosaki rope-way area, before having breakfast. This is because just outside the rope-way you can get boiled eggs. OK, so it doesn’t sound so exciting but it is!
You see, we got to boil our eggs in real water from the onsen source. A small bag of 3 eggs will cost you 300 yen, but it’s a fun experience.
At the foot of the mountain is a small temple called Onsen-ji Temple. Traditionally we should offer a prayer here before using any of the baths in Kinosaki, but I don’t think this tradition is upheld so much now-a-days.
You most certainly spied a staircase at the entrance to this temple, and of course we are going to walk up it. What, you didn’t think we would take the cable car did you?
See? I’ll take in this scenery over a cable car any day.
The first cable car stop is at Onsen-ji temple. Taking a hard right from the hiking trail entrance, there is another path which leads to a museum and another staircase which continues further up the mountain. I get the feeling that this path is not used very frequently these days (except maybe by bears…), but it was pretty easy to climb and very easy to follow.
The path up offers many nice views of the valley and other nice scenery too.
Unfortunately Ji-zu had lost his head at some point over the years, so we wanted to help him out and gave him a new one.
Finally we arrive at the summit to find a little temple, a towering statue and the cable car station.
At the cable car station you can buy little clay disks to try and throw from the mountain to hit the target. The station also has toilets and a cafe. Going up onto its roof there is an observatory, where we can see as far as the Sea of Japan, and across towards Kyoto prefecture.
A part of me wants to explore that area in the top right corner of this photo…
Also at the summit is a kids play area and this memorial to all the crabs who have given their lives in the valiant cause of keeping us well fed. Thank you crabs *salute*.
From here you can hike back down the mountain (or take the cable car) and either enjoy the scenery again, have another bath or meal, or visit the attractions outside the city before heading back to the big city. I hope you will enjoy Kinosaki Onsen, and if you go to the other three onsen please let me know how they were!
|Address||357-1 Yushima, Kinosaki-cho, Toyooka-shi, Hyogo-ken|
|Access||[map]357-1 Yushima, Kinosaki-cho, Toyooka-shi, Hyogo-ken[/map]|