Yukata are a lighter, more casual form of kimono and are often used as lounge wear at hotels or spas in Japan. This is also true in Kinosaki Onsen, but here the yukata is more for every-day wear. It is an essential part of the town’s authentic Japanese hot spring style and a strong custom of the hot springs.
Today, just like 1300 years ago, anyone vacationing in Kinosaki Onsen will change into their yukata after they arrive and remain in their yukata until they leave. Every ryokan in Kinosaki provides their guests with a yukata, this is to help them relax and experience the authenticity of a traditional hot-spring town.
If you are wanting to immerse yourself in Japanese culture, and hot springs, then Kinosaki Onsen is a must visit. The town holds true to its cultural roots dating back over a millennium. Just like in the old days, guests clop through the town in wooden sandals called ‘geta’ and are dressed in various yukata. Dressed in this traditional wear they travel along the willow-lined canal that is lit by soft, ambient lanterns. The traditional onsen dress, yukata, and town’s architecture has been preserved over the years as part of the town’s culture and tradition. The safeguarding of these traditions has given the town its charming atmosphere and unique scenes like ones from a historical movie.
Since the discovery of the town’s hot springs over 1300 years ago, Kinosaki Onsen has treated them as more than just mere water.
They are sacred waters with the ability to heal and rejuvenate. In fact, the first hot spring is said to have been discovered when a stork was seen healing its wounded leg in the waters. Also, there is a story that says the hot spring from Mandara Yu is the result of a priest praying for 1000 days to save the town’s people from suffering.
Because of the legends behind the founding of the hot springs, it was and still is custom for people to visit Onsen-ji, the hot spring temple, to give thanks for the waters and pray that the waters may never wither away.
To the locals, the hot springs are an indispensable source of life for the town. They are an existence of nature; here the hot springs and the people exist side-by-side.
Kinosaki Onsen has welcomed a countless number of visitors, and while some may see it as a tourist destination, it is not. It is a hot spring town and community that just happen to be a popular destination for travelers. Visitors are warmly welcomed into the ‘soto-yu’ (public bathhouses) where local families also gather for their evening bath. Local ‘snack’ bars will invite you to sing along to karaoke with their regular patrons, and local events are open to anyone wanting to join in.
The ryokan is a unique style and experience particular to Japan only. There are about 80 various ryokan in Kinosaki to meet a wide variety of needs.
There are ryokan that serve you your meals in your room, ones that serve them in their dining hall, and others that offer simpler stays without meals. However, the meals are an integral part of the ryokan experience. Start with a specialty sake, followed by fresh seafood or some of the highest-grade wagyu beef, with sides of locally grown seasonal vegetables.
Some of the ryokan buildings are also Cultural Properties of Japan.
Swim in the crystal clear waters of Takeno, kayak out to sea caves, hike an old lava flow, ski down the side of Kansai’s youngest volcano, tour behind and under the stage of a traditional kabuki theatre, walk an ancient castle town in a Kimono and much, much more.