After visiting Japan for the first time in 2018 with a group of college friends, I was excited to return in September as a travel writer. Having ruthlessly researched everything to do, brushing up on my Japanese, and even reconnecting with old local friends, visiting Japan was truly a full-circle moment. Unlike my first visit, I wanted to dive deeper into a few lesser-known cities. Outside of visiting Kyoto and Tokyo, I spent a few days in the charming town of Kinosaki Onsen, a hot springs hub in Japan’s Hyogo Prefecture.
Kinosaki Onsen is an alluring town about 2.5 hours from Osaka and Kyoto. Travelers can easily hop on a limited express train to Kinosaki Onsen Station and experience the town’s beauty. The city is famous for its seven bathhouses, traditionally called an Onsen.
The streets of Kinosaki Onsen are preserved treasure troves. Walking around, you’ll notice local boutiques, restaurants, and artists at play. While there, I felt transported back in time as I strolled along the cobblestone streets in a traditional yukata robe and geta (traditional wooden sandals). From the second travelers step off the train station, they’ll feel like they are in an open resort town. To the right is a vivid art installation portraying traditional Japanese slippers—a testament to the timeless customs of Asian cultures, where people remove shoes upon entering one’s homes. This artistic display is a visual ode to Kinosaki Onsen, a sanctuary where travelers find a fresh haven to unwind and relax.
In this spirit, here’s how to spend 48 hours in Kinosaki Onsen, your new home away from home.
Stay in a Luxury Boutique Hotel
Spending 48 hours in Kinosaki Onsen is never enough time. However, for a central location to knock everything off your bucket list, stay at Koyado Enn. This boutique hotel is a haven of traditional Japanese hospitality that awakens all the senses. This hidden gem offers an elevated ryokan experience with meticulously designed rooms that exude elegance and serenity. The interior décor showcases exquisite craftsmanship.
The location is just a stroll from the seven public onsens and is centrally located in town. The hotel also offers a private onsen experience for guests. Koyado Enn is a tranquil oasis promising an unforgettable escape into Japanese culture, where luxury and tradition harmoniously converge.
Visit The Tranquil Onsens
Travelers journey to Kinosaki Onsen for its well-preserved Japanese bath houses, and unlike most onsens in Japan, these bathhouses are tattoo-friendly. Kinosaki Onsen is also renowned for its seven distinct hot springs.
First up is Ichino-yu. This bathhouse boasts a rustic charm and is ideal for a relaxing soak. Mandara-yu is known for its stunning wooden architecture, inviting travelers to immerse themselves in a serene ambiance. Next, Gosho-no-yu, the Royal Bath, was once reserved for emperors. For a more intimate experience, Satono-yu offers private bathing options. Jizo-yu features an open-air bath with therapeutic properties. Kouno-yu, enveloped in lush greenery, is perfect for unwinding amidst nature. Lastly, Sotobo-yu allows you to watch the sunrise over the Sea of Japan as you soak.
The tradition in Kinosaki Onsen is to stroll the streets in yukata robes, hopping from one bathhouse to another. Travelers can purchase a “Yumepa” pass for unlimited access. Make sure to confirm the times of opening upon arrival and enjoy your time bath hopping!
Explore The Historic Temples
The Kinosaki Ropeway and the Onsenji Temple form a harmonious blend of natural beauty. I had the opportunity to tour this hallowed site in the company of the esteemed head monk. The Kinosaki Ropeway was awarded a Michelin Green Guide in Japan for its spectacular views.
The breathtaking ascent provides panoramic views of the lush forest landscape. It deposits visitors at the mountaintop, where the Onsenji Temple awaits. This sacred sanctuary is nestled amid ancient cedar trees. It exudes an aura of tranquility. Following the path, visitors can embark on this enriching journey by taking the ropeway from Kinosaki Onsen Town.
Another temple to visit is Gokurakuji Temple. While there, I meditated on the tranquil temple grounds and had calming green tea and a delightful conversation with a monk. Gokurakuji Temple in Kinosaki Onsen, steeped in history, offers travelers a serene escape. Founded in the 9th century, it exudes tranquility amid ancient cedar trees. Today, visitors can explore its peaceful grounds, meditate in the calming ambiance, and often partake in tea ceremonies. It’s a timeless haven for spiritual reflection. Upon arrival, they can inquire about guided temple tours offered periodically.
Meditate on Art & Tradition
Discover the rich cultural tapestry at CultureX, a women-owned business in Kinosaki Onsen that goes beyond typical tourism. Experience a traditional tea ceremony, immersing in the precision of matcha preparation. CultureX also offers a haven, showcasing handmade crafts, locally inspired souvenirs, and exquisite textiles celebrating Japan’s artistic heritage.
In another studio, I dove into the ancient art of Japanese straw craft boxing, “mugiwara zaiku,” with a lesson from a skilled woman artisan. These intricately woven boxes, once cherished for storing valuables, embody Kinosaki Onsen’s cultural legacy, where tradition and creativity seamlessly intertwine.
Taste Culinary Heaven
Kinosaki Onsen is a culinary haven with diverse food options. Cafe Bar 3rd is perfect for cozy coffee and light bites. Kinosaki Burger, a women-owned gem, serves gourmet burgers that combine local and global flavors. Irori Dining Mikuni stands out for its Tajima and Kobe beef dishes, locally sourced, honoring Kinosaki Onsen’s true heritage as the origin of Kobe beef.
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