Lonely Planet named this unbelievably quaint town in northern Hyogo one of Japan’s best onsen destinations. It has everything you need for a weekend of relaxation and proper Japanese hospitality.
The famous hot springs of Kinosaki were discovered in the 8th century. Today there are seven public baths staggered throughout town, each unique and equally charming. Gosho, no Yu has the distinction of being in the middle and is the newest onsen and one of the biggest. It offers saunas and indoor and outdoor baths below a waterfall that rushes down the mountainside.
The waters at each onsen are imbued with meaning; at Gosho no Yu, a soak in the tubs is believed to help you find a future spouse and prevent fire.
Luckily, for tattooed visitors, all of Kinosaki’s public onsen are tattoo-friendly, no matter the size of your tattoo. Besides Gosho no Yu, Satono-Yu is the largest onsen in town and has many types of baths for people to try.
It also may be good if you are an onsen first-timer. Since you can try out different styles of baths (hot, cold, jacuzzi, etc).
Mandara-Yu and Kouno-Yu are also recommended because they are the two onsens located farther away from the busy main streets. Often making for a quieter, calmer (and possibly less crowded) experience.
Many visitors go “onsen hopping” to sample what each offers. Part of the quintessential Kinosaki experience is wearing a yukata (light cotton kimono). While going from bath to bath – it makes changing multiple times convenient and a great way to engage in the traditional bathing culture. The ryokans have a selection of yukata in various designs for you to wear, or you can rent one at a local shop. Some people even wear geta (traditional wooden sandals) as they walk the cobblestone streets. The heavy clacking of the sandals upon the stone evokes days of yore and adds to the severe atmospherics.
If you are staying in a ryokan and looking for a tattoo-friendly onsen. It is always advised to call ahead before booking. But even if the inn is not, you can easily walk out to the public baths around town and partake.
Kinosaki by season
The allure of Kinosaki changes with the seasons, all of which have something to offer.
A ropeway will take you to the top of Kinosaki’s Mt. Taishi. Which offers beautiful panoramic views of the town below and the mountains and sea beyond. Stop halfway up to visit Osenji temple.
Come in early November to mid-December for fall leaves that brilliantly color the surrounding mountains. January for the snow; early to mid-April for the cherry blossoms; and summer for the lush willow trees that hang over the Otani river.
Sample the local cuisine; tajima beef from Kobe cattle and fresh crab (from November to March) at one of the local restaurants or in the comfort of your own ryokan. You can dine kaiseki ryori (traditional multi-course dinner) in your bedroom. There are many traditional festivals in Kinosaki. Including the Onsen Festival, held on April 23 and 24 to commemorate the death of founder Dochi Shonin. And the Furosato Festival, known for its evening fireworks display in August.
Things To Know
The “yumepa” is a digital ticket that allows you to visit all the baths by scanning it at the entrance of each onsen. You can get it at your ryokan (usually included in a night’s stay) or the tourist information center for ¥1200.
How To Get There
From Kyoto: The Limited Express Kinosaki runs direct trains from Kyoto Station to Kinosaki. If it stops at Toyooka City, you can transfer to any train on the Kinosaki Onsen/Tottori line. And reach Kinosaki in a few minutes.
From Osaka: The Limited Express Hamakaze and the Limited Express Kounotori trains go nonstop from Osaka Station to Kinosaki Onsen in about 2.5 hours.