Historic Hot Spring Haven
Kinosaki Onsen is a hot spring resort town tucked away in the mountains of northern Hyogo prefecture by the coast of the Sea of Japan, in the Kansai region. Built along a picturesque canal lined with willow trees, Kinosaki Onsen evokes the charm of bygone Japan, partly due to the unique nature of its hot spring culture. Kinosaki Onsen is a highly-recommended side trip for those visiting the Kansai region and is easily accessible by limited express trains.
The reputation of Kinosaki Onsen's healing waters goes back some 1400 years ago, when a stork was witnessed bathing a wounded wing in the marsh. In 717 the town was officially founded and since then, Kinosaki Onsen has been a celebrated destination, featured in many international travel guides and magazines. Onsen aficionados come to Kinosaki Onsen in droves and yet the town manages to retain an intimate feel, having escaped over-development.
What sets Kinosaki Onsen apart from other hot spring destinations is the popularity of its public bathhouses, of which there are seven. Each bathhouse possesses a distinct character all its own and guests staying at local ryokan are encouraged to visit them all; it is believed that by visiting all seven, one will be blessed with seven kinds of good fortune. While most ryokan in the vicinity boast their own onsen bathing facilities, guests also enjoy complimentary access to each bathhouse in town. This long-standing custom of bathhouse-hopping is referred to in Japanese as sotoyu meguri (touring the outside hot springs).
Kinosaki Onsen is most easily accessed from major cities in the Kansai region, primarily: Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, and Himeji. Multiple limited express trains (covered by the Japan Rail Pass) will take you from these cities through beautiful rural scenery to Kinosaki Onsen in just 2 to 3 hours.
From Kyoto: There are 6 limited express trains departing daily from JR Kyoto Station: the Kinosaki (3 trains daily) and the Hashidate (3 trains daily). Of these, 4 trains require a transfer to the Limited Express Konotori train at Fukuchiyama Station, while the other 2 trains will take you directly to JR Kinosaki Onsen Station. The entire journey takes approximately 3 hours.
From Osaka: A total of 7 daily limited express trains, named either Konotori or Hamakaze will take you directly from JR Osaka Station to JR Kinosaki Onsen Station with no transfers required in about 3 hours.
From Kobe or Himeji: The Hamakaze limited express train takes passengers from both JR Kobe Station and JR Himeji Station to JR Kinosaki Onsen Station without having to make any transfers. From Kobe the ride is about 2.5 hours, while from Himeji it takes only 2 hours. As there are only 3 Hamakaze trains each day, please be sure to check the train schedule beforehand.
Year-round, Kinosaki Onsen is a great refuge for weary travelers or simply those hoping to take in some traditional culture. From the streets to the people walking them to the buildings flanking each side, the town is filled with a special atmosphere. Visitors during the summer are especially lucky as they have a chance to experience Kinosaki Onsen's fun summer events.
Being a small town with over a millenium of tradition, it just makes sense to stay at a ryokan when visiting Kinosaki Onsen. Overseas travelers will note the dedication of ryokan staff, whose commitment to omotenashi or "spirit of hospitality" has continued to wow guests far and wide into the modern age. For travelers looking to experience authentic Japanese tradition, from food to design to service, staying at a ryokan is your best bet!
Guests staying at ryokan in Kinosaki Onsen enjoy complimentary access to all of town's seven public bathhouses known as sotoyu. Upon check-in, guests receive a "Yumepa" digital pass, featuring a barcode that is simply scanned at the entrance of each bathhouse for free admission. Change into the ryokan's yukata and put on a pair of geta and you're free to wander from bathhouse to bathhouse to your heart's content! Each bathhouse provides soap and shampoo free of charge, but be sure to remember to bring your own towel and washcloth (most ryokan will provide these amenities for guests).
*Disclaimer: Prices shown are lowest available room rates per person per night based on double occupancy. Prices may vary from those listed above depending on room type, number of guests staying, schedule, and availability.