The Hidden Gem of Japan – Kinosaki Onsen
Kinosaki Onsen (城崎温泉) a 8th century old hot spring town located in northern Hyogo Prefecture on the coast of the Sea of Japan. This picturesque old-fashioned town which is built along a willow-lined river, is rated as one of the top onsen destinations of the Kansai Region. Try to picture all the guests of the local ryokan would be out strolling the town in yukata and geta (wooden clogs), visiting the numerous public baths, just like the good old days. We were so looking forward to see this side of Japan and hopped on the earliest train from Osaka JR Station for the 2 hour 50 minutes direct ride to this hot spring town. Any holders of Japan Rail Pass or a Kansai Wide Rail Pass (which we were using) are able to access Kinosaki Onsen without further charges.
|The scenic town of Kinosaki Onsen
|The train station
|Hot spring drinking water
|Map of the town which is mainly a “S” shape road along the river
|Town main road
|Geta (wooden clogs)
| You know where to find crab in this town
There was a tourist information counter right across the train station once we exited the small Kinosaki Onsen train station, which we stopped by to ask where to rent a Yukata for a day. The very helpful receptionist directed us to the local ryokan, Yamamotoya located in the town center along the river. We spent ¥2,100 per person for our pretty Yukata (yes we got to choose from a selection), and the staff were very patience and helpful in teaching us on how to wear it the right way, as well as tying the bow at the back in the most beautiful way imaginable. It was almost like origami and I never knew we could do so much with just 2 pieces of clothes.
|The local ryokan that we rented the Yukata
|I’m fully dressed in Yukata~!
|See how detailed the Japanese with Yukata bow
|M in her Yukata
After we were all transformed into Japanese traditional ladies, we started wandering to the 7 public hot springs in the town. We bought the 1-day pass to all the 7 public hot springs for ¥1,000. You can get the day pass at any of the hot springs in town and this day pass will give you unlimited access. However, the towel is not included in all the price so unless you bring your own towel, you will have to buy a new one from the hot spring operator before you enter into the dressing room.
The 1st hot spring/onsen that we went to was Goshono-yu (御所の湯), which was the newest and one of the largest of the 7 public hot springs in Kinosaki. We had to undress our nicely tied Yukata and get naked into the bathing area before we dip into the hot spring. The waters are said to bring good luck for finding a marriage partner and preventing fires. I particularly liked the outdoor hot springs that was facing a waterfall, making my dip in the hot spring water a calm and relaxing one.
For first timer to Japanese hot spring, please checkout some of tips from the town’s official website (link click here). It can be quite daunting for any first timer to be publicly naked but it is what it is here in Japan. I found it funny and awkward too to see my girlfriends naked for the first time too because we Asians just don’t usually go skinny dipping with our girlfriends! Anyway, when in Japan do as the Japanese do so we just got over it quickly and enjoyed ourselves.
After our 1st dip we were hungry and ready for lunch. I had to say getting undressed and dressed again in the Yukata required quite a fair bit of work and patience. Not really complaining as we only had the Yukata for a day but I wondered how the locals did it everyday during the good old days.
We saw another hot spring, Ichino-yu (一の湯) on our way to lunch but was too hungry to stop to check it out. The urge to fill our stomach was too great!
| Love the calming looking stream
Fresh Japanese Lunch at Okesyo
So after our 1st hot spring dip, we went back to main road near the train station where most of the shops and restaurants are located for lunch. We randomly picked Okesyo (おけしょう鮮魚の海中苑) for lunch, which is located on the 2nd floor of the corner shop along the main road. They have English menu serving simple no fuss Japanese rice set lunches. I picked the Kaisen Don set for ¥1,890 that came with Sashimi on rice, miso soup, tempura, pickled vegetables and other side dishes. Since Kinosaki Onsen is located very close the sea, the seafood here is known to be good. Our Kaisen Don was perfect with extremely fresh raw fish served on a bed of Japanese rice. Also that was the 1st time we ate in a Japanese restaurant with traditional Yukata and Geta. We were so living the Japanese life~!
|Our lunch place
|The restaurant at the 2nd floor
|Set lunch Menu
|My kaizen don set lunch
|Lots of fresh sashimi
|The tempura and side dishes
After lunch, we went strolling back along the river looking for another hot spring. Althought walking in the geta was slightly uncomfortable and clunky, we still managed to explore quite a fair bit of the town on foot in the lovely spring weather.
We went to Mandara-yu (まんだらの湯) which was located off the main road. The outdoor bath is a popular cypress barrel bath but it was quite a small hot spring and the water was extremely hot. I didn’t quite enjoy this place compared to the earlier one.
We saw the Yanagi-yu (柳湯) hot spring which was said to ensure the fertility and safe childbirth for woman. Yanagi is Japanese for weeping willow, and it got the name from the willow trees lined along the street in front of Yanagi-yu. It looked really traditional but we didn’t have the time to check it out.
Jizou-Yu (地蔵湯) is named after a Buddhist deity that watches over children. The waters of Jizou-yu are said to bring safety and prosperity for family. It was known to have a very modern interior but we didn’t get to see it ourselves.
Our 3rd and last dip of the day was at Satono-yu (さとの湯). Located directly next to the station, this hot spring features a beautiful panoramic view from its outdoor bath located on the 3rd floor. It was my first outdoor hot spring experience, facing the open air and mountains out in the back. The coldness in the outdoor air and the very hot temperature of the hot spring made a really huge contrast that accentuated the whole onsen experience in Japan.
|The outdoor hot spring for the feet
After 3 hot spring dips in a day we were pretty much done and ready to go back to Osaka. Overall, this excursion out from the mainstream cities like Osake and Kyoto to Kinosaki Onsen was the highlight of our entire Kansai area trip. I was very glad that we mad the effort to come and see this beautiful hot spring town. It definitely worth the almost 6 hours return journey to Osaka so I’d strongly recommend it to everyone with the JR Pass or Kansai Wide Rail Pass to come experience this quintessential Japanese hot spring town. I’m pretty sure you will get hooked to the Japanese way of hot spring bathing!
|The pretty empty train back to Osaka
For the full details of the 7 public hot springs and other information, please check out Kinosaki Onsen official website: http://www.kinosaki-spa.gr.jp/global/index.html
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Check out my previous Japan Kansai Area Trip Itinerary (Kyoto & Osaka mainly) here
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