Kinosaki Inspirations

Kinosaki Plus 1: A Day in Downtown Toyooka

  • Itching for an excursion to the city after a tranquil stay among the Kinosaki Onsen hot springs? Save the big metropolitan sprawls for another time and instead discover the charming downtown of Toyooka City. Just two train stops away from Kinosaki Onsen will land you in one of Japan's untouched urban gems for offbeat travelers, complete with retro-cool architecture and quirky-chic boutiques and cafes. Come for the hot springs in Kinosaki Onsen and stay a little while longer in downtown Toyooka for some of the world's highest quality designer bags, a heartwarming sustainability story, and even an indie movie scene.

  • Breakfast at Higurashi Coffee

    After hopping off the train at Toyooka Station, set out on Daikai Street, the canopy-covered road lined with zany stork banners flapping in the wind. You'll find that storks are a running - or rather, flying - theme here as you make your way through town! Check the sidewalk for stork-themed manholes and street art. Whether you already enjoyed a filling breakfast at your ryokan in Kinosaki Onsen before checking out or your appetite is revved and ready to go, popping into Higurashi Coffee about 5 minutes into your walk is a great spot for some morning coffee or tea paired with some toast. Customers can relax in the vintage-style seating area next to the coffee counter and admire the homey ambience of this local coffee joint. While you are waiting, see if you can spot some cicada objects hidden on the shelf.

  • Fun fact: Due to the constant chirping of cicadas surrounding the shop when it first opened, the owner decided to name the cafe “Higurashi,” the Japanese word for “cicada.” Higurashi Coffee is also currently working with one of Toyooka's handbag artisans through a project involving transforming imported coffee bean sacks into handbags.

  • Done with your coffee break? Cross the street and explore Japan's oldest wooden shopping bazaar, Fureai Shopping Arcade.

  • The Best of Bags - Caban Street

  • At the end of Daikai Street to the right lies Caban Street, or better known as "Bag Street" to English speakers (hint: "caban" means bag in Japanese). For over 1,000 years starting with willow baskets, Toyooka has been Japan's powerhouse for handbag production, and nowadays over 30 brands of luxury handbags call Toyooka and Caban Street home. Stop into Toyooka Kaban Artisan Avenue shop for the largest selection of Toyooka Kaban-branded bags (yep, "caban" and "kaban" both mean bag!) before checking out the bag-themed sweets scene at either Ima Cafe or Alter Ego Matic.

  • Lunch after dessert

  • Pizza lovers, rejoice! Catch a quick "American school lunch" special at Todo Bien Coffee, Caban Street's micro-cafe serving up nostalgia in the shape of hearty pepperoni pizza slices and a zip bag of potato chips.

  • Todo Bien Coffee is located inside of Todohyo, a pop art-style complex decorated with a mural of an Oriental White Stork - "a free art exhibit for all visitors to Caban Street" according to Koyama Toshi, Todohyo's current owner. In addition to Todo Bien serving up pizza and coffee blends, an Italian restaurant, bag atelier, and even reservable study spaces can be found under Todohyo’s roof. The patio garden is open for customers to sit back in the shade and enjoy their lunch outside.

  • Bike alongside storks

    Beat the post-meal fatigue with a bike ride to the Hyogo Park of the Oriental White Stork, the only park in Japan that is dedicated to exhibits and studies on one of Japan's living national treasures. Bicycles can be rented at 500 yen a pop for the day at Toyobra, a shop just a 2-minute walk away from Todohyo. The ride to the Hyogo Park of the Oriental White Stork is 15 minutes one way. Be on the lookout for wild storks hunting for some lunch in the nearby rice paddies!

  • Japan's Stork Cafe & Shrine

  • On the way back to Caban Street, park your bikes for some drinks and a breather at Avian tot, a vintage-style tearoom across the street from one of Toyooka's most unique places of worship, Kukuhi Shrine.

  • Kukuhi Shrine hidden amongst the Toyooka countryside trees is known for receiving worshippers hoping for a child or who are already expecting. Of course, even visitors without babies on the brain can receive good fortune with a visit! Write your prayers on a Stork-themed Ema (wooden plaques with written prayers) and hang it on the shrine as an offering to the gods. The plaques can be purchased at Avian Tot.

  • Catch a movie at Toyooka Cinema

    After returning your bicycles, consider starting off the evening with a flick at Toyooka Cinema, just 5 minutes north of Caban Street. Built in 1927 and newly renovated in 2014, the Toyooka Cinema is a beloved hangout well-known for its renovated vintage architecture and indie lineup of foreign and Japanese films. Experience a slice of old Hollywood charm with red velveteen theater seats, retro movie posters, and industrial lights illuminating the revived architecture of bygone eras. English-language films are often in the lineup with the occasional evening showtime.

  • No evening showtimes? No problem, it's off to the izakaya for some dinner and barhopping.

  • For our first-timers here, an izakaya is a type of bar/pub with a heavy focus on community and catering to the local neighborhood. A huge variety of alcohol and soft drinks are on the menu along with small dishes of fried snacks, seafood, and other savories to pair with a cold drink after a day of work. It's not uncommon to order more dishes and drinks as you go, so don't be afraid to call out to a staff member with a "sumimasen" (excuse me) for some more eats! Many of Toyooka's izakaya are found on Ikuta Street, running perpendicular from Caban Street. Most izakaya run until as late as the wee hours in the morning, allowing for plenty of variety on your barhopping escapades.

  • Your Accommodation: Auberge Toyooka 1925

  • Add "spending a night in a Japanese bank" to your travel bucket list with a bespoke accommodation experience at Auberge Toyooka 1925, Toyooka's historic boutique hotel. Originally built in 1934 after the devastating 1925 earthquake and fire in Toyooka, the building was used as a bank and an annex of Toyooka City Hall before becoming a hotel. Currently home to six vintage-style guest rooms and a dining area calling back to the bygone charms of 1930s architecture, guests can take it slow and enjoy their travel back in time.

  • About

    Danielle Leveille

    Danielle Leveille

    Junior Local Expert

    Originally from Chicago in the USA. She currently works for Visit Kinosaki as a coordinator for international relations. A lover of Tajima beef and hidden sightseeing spots, she can be found either at one of her favorite restaurants or exploring a secret nook in town.