A hidden treasure in the back of
town away from the crowded
This quieter street that follows the Otani River from Ichino-Yu, near the center of town, all the way to the back of Kinosaki is one of my more favorite strolls of the more leisurely kind. There is very little traffic, aside from the occasional car or van making their way to local residents or small business tucked back here along the river. If you walk here in the early morning and late afternoons groups of local elementary school or junior high students will join you as they walk to and from school. The best part is the extending row of cherry blossom trees that create a green tunnel in the spring and summer, a orange and red one in the fall, and even beautifuler still, the thick clouds of pink that are created when the cherry trees blossom around late April.
Where is Kiyamachi Strolling Path
Kiyamachi refers to the small shopping square located between Ichino-Yu and Goshono-Yu bathhouses, about a 15 minute walk from Kinosaki Onsen Station towards the ropeway. The small street running behind the shopping center along the mountain side river is called Kiyamachi Dori or Street. You will find a small decorative sign post at the side of the large bridge where the street bends to the right towards Ichino-Yu bathhouse.
The narrower road and fewer shops gives it a quieter atmosphere when compared to the main street that runs parallel. This road, Kiyamachi Street, is a great stroll for when you just want to take your time walking and taking snap pictures. Although there aren’t nearly as many shops here as there are along the main street, there are still a couple nice ones that are worth a visit.
Avoid the traffic on the main street, here on the Kiyamachi walking path you can enjoy a more leisurely stroll. Follow the gently flowing river all the way to the ropeway at the back of town. Lush cherry blossom trees covered in moss provide a cooling canopy of green from late spring to autumn. After the winter snow melts the trees brim with soft pink cherry blossoms. Lanterns light the way at night and gently smiling stone statues sit under the trees enjoying the scenery with you.
Straw Craft Museum
At the beginning of your walk, coming from the station, you will see a traditional looking building with a white walls and black trim to the side of the river. This is the Kinosaki Mugiwara Zaiku Straw Craft Museum. Here you can learn about this beautiful and intricate craftsmanship that began around 300 years ago here in Kinosaki. There is also a workshop available for those who would like to try their hand at this local craft.
Mandara Yu is the original hot spring and is where the first official hot spring source was discovered, or rather produced by the town’s oracle – according to legend, in 720 A.D. . This bathhouse is located on the far end of Kiyamachi Street, by where the river bends towards the ropeway.
A walk under the cherry blossoms
Cherry blossom trees line the walkway along the river, creating a tunnel of soft pink for over 1 km long. A popular place during the short cherry blossom season. Depending on the year’s climate and weather these cherry blossoms will begin blooming anywhere from late March or early April. On average the blossoms grace the town with their presence for only one week. This fleeting beauty is why the cherry blossom is so beloved. From dusk lanterns light the trees, allowing visitors to enjoy the blossoms at night for an after-dinner stroll. Another sight to behold, is when all the petals fall from the tree into the river below, creating a raft of sorts. It is also a mesmerizing sight to see when the blossoms begin to wilt and clouds of petals dance in the wind as they fall from the trees.
Going to see the fireflies near the back of Kiyamachi Road is another great reason to take a late evening stroll around early to mid June, although the timing really depends on that year’s weather and the timing of the rainy season, so best to check ahead of time to see when they might be appearing. Fireflies favor moist air and dark places, so the heavily wooded mountains and the aligning river along Kiyamachi Road creates an ideal environment for seeing them.
About midway down you will find a shopping square called Kiyamachi Kouji and the adjacent square. Take notice of the striking design of the wall in the square. This wall is called the “Hibuse Kabe”, meaning fire prevention in Japanese. The wall was created to symbolize the recovery from the Great Hokutan Earthquake that occurred in 1925 and destroyed much of the town, it is also to pray for the further development of Kinosaki.
Within the shopping square you will find a specialty vinegar store, a wood sculpture artisan shop, Kinosaki Mugiwara Zaiku Straw Craft, an ear salon, and a few other shops selling local specialties.
Aside from shops a few fun things to check out are the little book corner and rolling ball sculpture featuring local characters and scenes.
Like scavenger hunts? Walk around the square and see if you can find small sculptures hidden here and there. These creatures are modeled after the same ones that appeared in famous novels about the area, written by Shiga Naoya, a Japanese fiction writer and master stylist. Hint: there are three and one is a bee.