Kinosaki Inspirations

A New Look for an Ancient Hot Spring Town

Onishiya Suishoen's garden and Noh stage to the left

Kinosaki Onsen's Revamped Ryokan Accommodations

As a hot spring town that prides itself with an unchanging cozy atmosphere lasting for over 1,300 years, Kinosaki Onsen has also welcomed various revamps for its traditional ryokan accommodations, further enhancing guests' enjoyment of this ancient and tranquil town. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Kinosaki Onsen took the temporary lack of visitors as an opportunity for some new renovations.

Blending Traditional Ambiance with Modern Comforts

Onishiya Suishoen: A traditional ryokan known for a gorgeous decorative Noh stage that displays videos of shows in its central garden, Onishiya Suishoen is ecstatic to announce all-new guestroom renovations including rooms with western-style beds, rooms designed with a chic mix of western and Japanese architecture, and in-room private hot spring baths, all providing foreign visitors with the comforts of home in a traditional Japanese setting.

Nishimuraya Hotel Shogetsutei: Nishimuraya Honkan's larger, western and Japanese-style counterpart, is widely known as Kinosaki Onsen's premier hotel for group tours as well as international visitors, and has recently added a gym to its long list of amenities. In addition to the elegant lobby lounge, outdoor pool (seasonal), and luxurious Italian restaurant, those specifically looking for an accommodation equipped with a brand-new gym are especially encouraged to consider spending a night at Nishimuraya Hotel Shogetsutei.

Nishimuraya Hotel Shogetsutei’s new gym (Photo by Daijirou Okada)

Kinsui: The stylish and quaint ryokan Kinsui is excited to introduce a newly renewed Japanese-style guestroom, designed after Kinosaki Onsen's very own onomatopoeia picture book cleverly entitled Kinosaki Yu-nomatope. Guests young and old can enjoy a truly unique and unforgettable experience as they open the geta-shaped door and are greeted with willow tree wall art, Matsuba Crab illustrations, and an Oriental White Stork-design light fixture. Children will especially delight in the room’s playground-style tunnel.

Kinsui guestroom and geta-shaped door

UTSUROI TSUCHIYA ANNEX: Highly popular among young international travelers, the cafe-hotel hybrid UTSUROI TSUCHIYA ANNEX has begun to offer overnight plans without kaiseki and breakfast meals, but with all of the comforts of a cozy and stylish hideaway in the center of town. In their room, guests can relax in one of UTSUROI's iconic egg chairs, admiring the passersby below before savoring a bite to eat at the downstairs cafe.

An egg chair in a guestroom

Kobayashiya: A beautiful ryokan with roots in pottery-making, Kobayashiya has re-opened its doors with an all-new cozy lobby area stocked with books from around the world for guests to read, along with sleek private hot spring baths available for guests to reserve during their stay. Those looking for an especially luxurious stay are encouraged to inquire about Kobayashiya’s three-room suite overlooking town.

Kobayashiya’s renovated guestrooms and lobby

Kinosaki Inspirations

Kinosaki Onsen’s 1,300 Years of Legends and History

The ancient waters of Kinosaki Onsen, which have even been recognized by Japan’s Emperor for their healing abilities and mystical properties, were originally discovered by a Buddhist priest passing through the town of modern-day Kinosaki in the year 720 AD. This priest named Dochi Shonin was travelling across Japan, and when he arrived in Kinosaki, he saw that the residents were ill and suffering. Dochi Shonin received an oracle which told him to pray for one-thousand days in order to assist the townspeople in their plights and sufferings. On the thousandth day of prayer, water suddenly sprung out from the ground by what is now known as Mandara-yu, consequently renowned as one of Kinosaki’s very first hot springs (the other being Kono-yu).

The ability to create hot water without the use of fire was viewed as an otherworldly act, and Kinosaki Onsen had gained recognition throughout Japan as a town blessed by the gods. Eventually, news of the burgeoning hot spring town made its way to the Emperor. After confirming the authenticity of Kinosaki’s hot spring water, he gave the title of “Guardian Temple of Kinosaki Onsen” to Onsenji, the temple erected by Dochi Shonin for the protection of Kinosaki, its waters and its people.

As thanks to Dochi Shonin for founding Kinosaki Onsen, every year during the days of April 23 and April 24, the locals of Kinosaki Onsen celebrate their humble beginnings and commemorate Dochi Shonin’s service.

The Onsen Festival, beginning on April 23, the recorded date of Dochi Shonin’s death, begins with a reverent procession of Shinto priests paying respects and blessing all seven of Kinosaki Onsen’s public hot springs.

After a day of thanks, locals and visitors light up the town with candles and lanterns. Writing down hopes and prayers on the outside of the lanterns, people decorate the streets with a colorful illumination and pray for the further prosperity of Kinosaki Onsen, its locals, and its visitors.

According to another legend from 1,300 to 1,400 years ago, the hot spring waters that are now home to Kono-yu, another one of Kinosaki’s seven public bathhouses, were discovered when an Oriental White Stork was soaking its injured leg in a pool of water. The stork, appearing to have been healed, eventually took flight, and a natural hot spring was found where the stork had been bathing. This spring is now known as Kono-yu, “the hot spring of the Oriental White Stork.”

Ever since the creation of Kinosaki Onsen, it has been said by locals that in order to truly enjoy the town’s seven hot springs, one should climb halfway up Mount Daishi and pay respects to Onsenji Temple, the guardian temple of Kinosaki. In fact, when the town was first founded, those who wished to bathe in the waters of Kinosaki Onsen were required to make a trip up to Onsenji Temple beforehand.

Although this tradition is no longer a requirement for entering Kinosaki’s hot springs, it is still highly encouraged to enjoy the hike to this ancient temple, learn about the history from the monks themselves, and even see artifacts such as canes left behind by those healed by Kinosaki’s waters.