A historic onsen mecca with hot springs with ‘gold’ and ‘silver’ waters that will transform your stay into vaca-therapy.
It was here that Emperors recuperated from regal woes of running kingdoms, where Samurai healed their battle wounds and where elite men of words retreated for literary inspiration.
What big city is nearby?
You can feel the old-world resort charm from the moment you step off the tiny railway station. Compact enough to be explored entirely on foot, Arima’s main Taiko-dori shopping street forks into narrow cobblestone pathways, flanked by Edo-style wooden houses and free ashi-yu (foot bath) spots.
Arima is also known for its bamboo handicrafts, calligraphy brushes and its own toy museum.
Once you’ve explored the town, which is built around a winding river, take a trek around the area and indulge in some shinrin-yoku (forest bathing), the affectionate Japanese term for finding relief in nature and hiking. Rinkei-ji and Zuihou-ji Parks, are famous foliage-viewing spots, or there’s Tsuzumigataki Park, which boasts an eight-meter-high waterfall. Arima is also known for its bamboo handicrafts, calligraphy brushes and its own toy museum, Arima Toys and Automata Museum, with an interesting collection of automata toys.
In the 7th century, Arima was frequented only by emperors, famous monks and courtiers. In fact, reference to Arima can be found in Nihon Shoki, the ancient written record of Japanese mythology and history. Arima was also one of the places where, during the Edo Period, toji or Japanese onsen therapy culture evolved.
Back in the day, Monk Gyoki, recognizing the medicinal waters of Arima, established the Onsen-ji Temple here, with a life-size statue of Yakushi Nyorai, or Buddha of Medicine. (It is still considered auspicious to pay your respects here before taking a dip.) Not surprisingly, modern-day science proved Monk Gyoki right: Arima waters have seven of the nine natural components recognized by the 1948 Hot Spring Law as having medicinal benefits — making it one of a handful of onsen in the world with these features.
Unlike most of Japan’s onsens, Arima’s waters are not volcanic in origin. These natural hot springs are of two kind: kinsen gold water is a dark brown, rich in iron deposits, and ginsen silver water, contains radium and carbonate. Yes, it’s a natural bubbly famously used to make carbonated rice crackers or tansan senbei – a perfect unique souvenir to take home.
Are you an onsen lover? Discover more hot spring getaways.