Kinosaki Onsen: Scenes from an Onsen Town in Hyōgo, Japan

Kinosaki Onsen: Scenes from an Onsen Town in Hyōgo, Japan

Kinosaki Onsen is captivating. It’s one of those places in Japan that make you feel like you were in a different era.

About two and a half hours northwest of Kyoto and Osaka, Kinosaki Onsen is an idyllic town known for its seven public hot springs or soto-yu. There are no modern hotels here. Instead, you’ll find traditional ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) and buildings just 2-3 storeys tall. The willow-lined Otani River cuts through the center of town and you can cross to either side on footbridges spaced every hundred feet or so apart. So preserved is the townscape that the only reminders of 2017 it seems, are the Japanese compacts navigating its narrow streets.

There is much to be charmed by in this town but what struck me the most were the people. Many onsen-goers were walking around town in yukatas (cotton kimonos) and geta sandals (wooden clogs)! I thought yukatas were worn mainly in private quarters so it was a little surprising to find people wearing them in public. It all made sense when our tour guide explained to us the concept of an onsen town.

As she put it, the entire town is a ryokan. The inns are the guest rooms, the hot springs are the baths, and the roads are the hallways. When you’re here, you can relax in a yukata even when outside because the whole town is like one big ryokan.

We were here for less than an hour and already I was in love with this town. ♥

* * * * *


I wish we could have stayed the night here. The town was so picturesque and rife with detail.
Kinosaki Onsen: Scenes from an Onsen Town in the Kansai Region

One of the seven soto-yus. See what I mean about the onsen-goers walking around in yukatas and getas? Furthering the “ryokan town” concept, staying at any Kinosaki Onsen inn entitles you to free access to all seven hot spring baths. If you’re visiting just for the day, then you can purchase a Yumepa pass which allows you to bathe at all seven soto-yus for JPY 1,200 for adults and JPY 600 for children.
Kinosaki Onsen: Scenes from an Onsen Town in the Kansai Region

A closer look at the wooden geta sandals. Some of the onsen-goers were walking slowly and with measured steps so I’m guessing these take some getting used to.
Kinosaki Onsen: Scenes from an Onsen Town in the Kansai Region

Shops, cafes, and restaurants. As previously described, there are no tall buildings here.
Kinosaki Onsen: Scenes from an Onsen Town in the Kansai Region

With more time, I would have loved to explore all the shops and alleys. The whole town has so much character.
Kinosaki Onsen: Scenes from an Onsen Town in the Kansai Region

Even the manholes in Japan are kawaii. I read about artists in Berlin who use the silkscreen process to transfer urban designs from manholes and grates onto shirts. They should do a series on Japanese manholes!
Kinosaki Onsen: Scenes from an Onsen Town in the Kansai Region

Kinosaki Onsen is by the coast of the Sea of Japan so Matsuba Crabs are popular here. Matsuba Crabs are male snow crabs fished from the Sea of Japan. They’re said to be some of Japan’s very best.
Kinosaki Onsen: Scenes from an Onsen Town in the Kansai Region

Matsuba Crabs are prized delicacies so they don’t come cheap. Is that JPY 18,000 (around USD 160) for a single crab?! 😯 We were lucky enough to have these prized crabs for dinner at our inn later that night. It was served hot pot style and you could have the crab fully cooked or still partly raw. It was sooo good.
Kinosaki Onsen: Scenes from an Onsen Town in the Kansai Region

You can find all kinds of crab products here, even bags of whole crablets to be enjoyed as snacks!
Kinosaki Onsen: Scenes from an Onsen Town in the Kansai Region

The Otani River cuts through the heart of town. As you can see, it started to rain while we were there creating an even lovelier atmosphere.
Kinosaki Onsen: Scenes from an Onsen Town in the Kansai Region

We left town just before it got dark. As pretty as the town was during the day, I can only imagine how beautiful it must be at night with all the lights.
Kinosaki Onsen: Scenes from an Onsen Town in the Kansai Region

Weeping willows. I saw pictures of this exact scene blanketed in snow. It looked straight out of a storybook. ♥
Kinosaki Onsen: Scenes from an Onsen Town in the Kansai Region

Our group of bloggers/media taking refuge from the rain.
Kinosaki Onsen: Scenes from an Onsen Town in the Kansai Region

More onsen-goers strolling around town in their yukatas and getas. I secretly envied them. 🙂
Kinosaki Onsen: Scenes from an Onsen Town in the Kansai Region

We were here for no more than two hours which was way too short for a place like this. I miss it already. Ren and I will be going to similar onsen towns like this one soon – Yufuin and Kurokawa Onsen in Kyushu. We’ll be staying the night at each place so we’ll be bona fide onsen-goers and not just observers like we were today. I can’t wait to rock the yukata and geta! 😆
Kinosaki Onsen: Scenes from an Onsen Town in the Kansai Region

Kinosaki Onsen is two and a half hours away from either Kyoto or Osaka so it is possible to do it on a day trip. But why would you want to? You’d be spending five hours traveling in a train and more importantly, you’ll be rushed. The point of an onsen town is to slow down, relax in your yukata and geta, and enjoy your time in the hot springs. It’s the kind of place that invites you to disconnect and soak up the atmosphere. You won’t want to feel rushed in a place like this so if you have the time, then I strongly suggest you stay the night. I’ve read that the town is at its most beautiful at night.

You can check Booking.com or Agoda for suggestions on Kinosaki Onsen accommodations.

Kinosaki Onsen

357-1 Kinosakicho Yushima, Toyooka 669-6101, Hyogo Prefecture
Tel: +81-796-21-9002
Website: visitkinosaki.com
Facebook: visitkinosaki
Twitter: VisitKinosaki
Instagram: visitkinosaki

How to Get There

From Kyoto

It takes about 2.5 hrs to get to Kinosaki Onsen from Kyoto by JR Train. It costs JPY 4,320 each way for unreserved seats and around JPY 5,000 for reserved. The Japan Rail Pass and Kansai Wide Area Pass are valid between Kyoto and Kinosaki Onsen.

From Osaka

Option 1: It takes about 2.5 hrs to get to Kinosaki Onsen from Osaka by JR Train. It costs JPY 5,080 each way for unreserved seats and around JPY 5,600 for reserved. The Japan Rail Pass and Kansai Wide Area Pass are valid between Osaka and Kinosaki Onsen.
Option 2: A cheaper option is to go by bus. Zentan Bus operates 2-3 round trips per day between Osaka and Kinosaki Onsen. The trip takes 3 hours and costs JPY 3,700 yen.

For travel tips to Osaka, check out our First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Osaka, Japan

The First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Osaka, Japan

For travel tips to Kyoto, check out our First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Kyoto, Japan

 The First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Kyoto, Japan

Disclosure

This trip was made possible by Cebu Pacific Airlines and JR West. We were guests of JR West and taken on a FAM trip to promote Kinosaki Onsen and Western Japan. As always, opinions expressed in this post are mine and mine alone.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning we’ll get a small commission if you make a purchase at NO extra cost to you. We really appreciate your support as it helps us keep this website going. Thank you!

JB Macatulad

JB Macatulad

JB is one half of Will Fly for Food and its chief itinerary maker.  He's the one to blame for all the crappy photos and verbal diarrhea on this blog.  Don't listen to him.
JB Macatulad


There are 10 comments for this article
  1. Tracy at 5:06 am

    WOW. Great shots! First time checking out this page, but I love it. Japan is an absolutely magical plan…. photos do it justice 🙂

  2. Alexandra Pavlova at 7:19 pm

    How romantic, great shots! I love stories of less travelled destinations. Japan is one of my favourite countries in the world when it comes to travel. I’m following the next Onsen towns posts.

  3. Just at 3:21 pm

    Love reading your blog. Thank you for sharing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *