Time Honored Hot Springs
Beyond the tall peaks of Kobe’s mountain range and high rise buildings, nestled in a lush mountain valley along the Sea of Japan is an age old hot spring town shrouded in unforgettable charm. Kinosaki Onsen has been loved by locals and travelers for over 1,300 years and counting.
Kansai’s most beautiful onsen destination
Kinosaki Onsen is built around the idea that the entire town is one large ryokan - traditional Japanese inn. There are 7 hot spring bathhouses placed within walking distance of each other, from the “entrance” or the train station to the back of the town it takes only 20 minutes to walk. A beautiful walk through the town streets aka “hallways” in your ryokan yukata is unforgettable, as you pass by other guests also dressed in yukata of various colors and prints.
An advantage that Kinosaki Onsen has over other hot spring towns is that it has multiple and distinctive bathhouses with natural hot spring waters, that are all centrally located, getting to each one on foot or geta is no problem. In addition, you can spend an entire day or two traversing the entire town only in your yukata. Go shopping in your yukata, ride the ropeway in your yukata, eat out at a restaurant in your yukata or grab a drink at the local bar in your yukata. Once in Kinosaki Onsen, the only wardrobe you need is a yukata and geta, all of which is provided to you by your Kinosaki accommodations.
Even if you are not staying at a local establishment, usually a one night stay at any one of the ryokan or hotels in Kinosaki also comes with a free all-you-can-use pass to the bathhouses and a yukata, you can still get the same experience as someone that is. You can purchase a one-day all-you-can-use onsen pass for around 1,300 yen from any onsen of the 7 bathhouses. The pass will give you free entry to all 7 of the bathhouses for the day of purchase. For those also wanting to blend in to the scenery with a yukata, head over to Iroha- local yukata rental shop. Here you can rent an entire yukata set for the day and they will even help you put it on at the shop.
HOP AROUND TO ALL 7 ONSEN
Go “onsen-hopping” in Kinosaki Onsen to all 7 bathhouses on foot.
Kinosaki Onsen Beginnings
To Japan’s ancient people, the ability to heat water without the use of fire was something that was beyond human knowledge at the time. So, the creation of onsen(hot springs) were viewed as an act of the gods.
Legends have also been told about animals discovering a majority of Japan’s oldest hot springs, Kinosaki is no exception to this. These legends and the true stories of people being healed by Kinosaki’s hot spring waters or by the deity that watches over the town from Onsen-ji, add to the mystery of Kinosaki Onsen.
Established in 720 A.D.
There are very few onsen in Japan that are as old as Kinosaki and have an actual recorded founding date. Kinosaki has been found noted in various historical documents that can authenticate its founding date to 720. The discovery of a hot spring source at what today is Mandara-Yu, is recorded in those documents.
Most hot springs in Japan only have an approximate founding date, for example “Such and such onsen was discovered in the early or late such and such century.”
Mandara-Yu, is historically known as Kinosaki’s very first onsen and the town’s starting point as a well-renowned healing hot spring. Historical documents tell of a priest (Saint Douchi) that traveled the country to help the suffering and ill. His travels eventually brought him here, to Kinosaki Onsen. Here he was instructed by the local oracle to pray for 1,000 days to save the people from suffering. On the 1,000th day, hot spring water came forth. This hot spring water soon became famous throughout the region and the country for its incredible healing powers. Eventually, word reached the emperor of the time. After confirming the authenticity of Kinosaki’s onsen he gave the title of “Guardian Temple of Kinosaki Onsen” to the temple erected by St. Douchi for the protection of Kinosaki, it’s hot spring waters and it’s people.
A MUST READ
Healing hot springs and guardian temple of Kinosaki
Legend says that another hot spring was discovered in Kinosaki’s around 13-1400 years ago when a villager came across an Oriental White Stork soaking its injured leg in a pool of water. Soon after, the stork appearing to have been healed, took flight and the intrigued villager went to inspect the pool. They discovered a hot spring where the stork had been bathing. This is now known as the “Kono-Yu”, literally the “Oriental White Stork hot spring bath” and is still in use today.