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).
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.
The allure of Kinosaki changes with the seasons, all of which have something to offer. 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, where you can dine kaiseki ryori (traditional multi-course dinner)-style in your bedroom.
There are many traditional festivals in Kinosaki, including the Onsen Festival held on April 23rd and 24th to commemorate the death of founder Dochi Shonin, and the Furosato Festival, known for its evening fireworks display in August.
Topics: hot springs