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6 Things To do at Kinosaki Onsen in Autumn

The backdrop to an awesomely local autumn experience in Japan.

Just two and a half hours from Kyoto lies Kinosaki Onsen—one of the top hot spring destination towns in Japan.  Located in Hyogo Prefecture’s Toyoka City, the greater area is filled with the tradition and culture of old Japan that comes alive in autumn.

Travelers can stay in a traditional ryokan and visit the seven public hot spring baths spread out over town. Along with the hot spring town, Toyoka City is home to Izushi, an Edo-era castle town with beautiful castle ruins, a samurai house (Karo Yashiki), and a traditional kabuki theater. Unwind in the hot springs and experience one of the city’s lively festivals in the same trip!

If you’re heading there in autumn, check out these yearly events to get a feel for what the area is really all about.

1. Kinosaki Danjiri Festival

Photo by: Visit Kinosaki Fighting shrines!

Four major portable shrines, each representing a part of the town (north, east, south and west), are paraded around. The climax of the festival is when the shrines meet in the middle of town to battle— here’s a reason it’s often referred to as the “Fighting Shrine Festival.” This is one of Kinosaki’s largest festivals and is not to be missed!

  • In front of Ichino-yu, Kinosaki - Map
  • Nearest station: Kinosaki Onsen Station (5-10 minutes on foot to venue)

2. Izushi Autumn Festival

More fighting shrines!

This event is also known as the Danjiri Festival (not to be confused with the Kinosaki Danjiri Festival above). In an aggressive display of strength, the all-male-participants attack each others’ danjiri (wooden shrine-shaped cart) with 17-meter long poles. It’s not just testosterone fueled violence— the purpose of the festival is actually to pray for a rich harvest. Kinosaki seems to have an ongoing theme of exciting “fighting festivals!”

  • Izushi-cho - Map
  • Nearest station: Izushi Bus Stop (出石(バス)) (5-10 minutes on foot to venue)

3. Eirakukan Kabuki Theatre

Behind the scenes of kabuki

Take a look behind the scenes of kabuki with a tour of the Eirakukan Kabuki Theatre— the oldest of its kind in the Kansai region. After initially closing in 1964, the re-opening in 2008 featured kabuki star Ainosuke Kataoka who is now one of the leading kabuki actors in western Japan. In early November, people flock to the theater to witness him in action during a special annual performance. Seeing the rotating contraption under the stage and the backstage powder room will give you a rare glimpse into the magic behind the elaborate performance art.

  • Eirakukan Kabuki Theatre, Izushi - Map
  • Nearest station: Izushi Bus Stop (出石(バス)) (5-10 minutes on foot to venue)

4. Izushi Kimono Festival

Mirror, mirror on the wall, whose kimono is the most beautiful of all?

Learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Japan’s most beloved garment at the Izushi Kimono Festival. Dress up in your fanciest kimono and compete in the kimono-wearing contest or sit back and watch the soba noodle carrying race! Kimono rentals and dressers are available onsite so don’t worry if you don’t know how to properly tie your own obi (kimono belt).

  • Izushi-cho, Uchi-machi, Izushi Castle Ruins, etc. - Map
  • Nearest station: Izushi Bus Stop (出石(バス)) (5-10 minutes on foot to venue)

5. Izushi Castle Festival

“All hail Izushi Castle”

Every year on Nov. 3, the Izushi Castle Festival sees about 120 participants parading the streets dressed in traditional costumes. During the Edo period, Izushi was a renowned castle town and is often referred to as the “Little Kyoto” of Hyogo Prefecture. The main attraction is the “Daimyo”— a procession of men with decorated spears reenacting the Izushi Castle feudal lord’s march to Tokyo to meet the Tokugawa Shogun. You can really feel the local peoples’ pride in their town history.

  • Izushi-cho - Map
  • Nearest station: Izushi Bus Stop (出石(バス)) (5-10 minutes on foot to venue)

6. Dodan Tsutsu-ji Fall Foliage Viewing

Whoa

No, that’s not a painting— the autumn leaves at Ankoku-ji Temple are actually vibrant enough to make you feel like you’re being engulfed in a blaze of fire. The temple’s history dates back to 1345,  and it was actually burnt down in 1717. The huge Dodan Tsutsu-ji Tree that was planted here in 1904 when the main hall was reconstructed is what produces the brilliantly colored leaves. Catch one of the most unreal autumn backdrops we’ve ever seen from early to mid-November.

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