If you’re in search of a genuinely authentic onsen experience, Kinosaki should be your next getaway.
Lonely Planet named this unbelievably quaint town in northern Hyogo as 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 as well as one of the biggest. It offers saunas as well as indoor and outdoor baths below a natural waterfall that rushes down the mountainside.
The waters at each onsen are imbued with meaning; at Gosho no Yu, it is believed that a soak in the tubs will help you find a future spouse as well as prevent fire. (My kinda’ bath).
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 different 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 has to offer. 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 it’s 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 serious atmospheric-ness.
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.
6 Things To do at Kinosaki Onsen in Autumn
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.