The city of Toyooka is a quaint countryside getaway teeming with historical treasures, starting with its beloved hot spring town Kinosaki Onsen.
Just a car ride away from this legendary spa sanctuary lies Izushi, a castle town harboring all the allures of old Japan charm that any visitor could hope for.
Hop in the car
While Izushi can be reached by a direct bus every day of the week, two buses are required to get back to Kinosaki Onsen!
While this might be a bummer, worry not! At the end of the day anyway, a rental car is the way to go for the ultimate worry-free schedule.
Throw away your bus worries and rent your private car with Visit Kinosaki.
The drive from Kinosaki Onsen to Izushi is about 50 minutes one way.
The good news? The ride's far from a snooze-fest!
Be sure to keep your eyes peeled while passing through rice paddies and alongside the Izushi River for a glimpse at the local natural treasure, the Oriental White Stork.
Park the car, and on with the adventure
After dropping the car off at the parking lot near the Izushi Castle Ruins, it's time for breakfast (if you hadn't already feasted in your Kinosaki ryokan, of course).
For those who opted for a meal-free ryokan stay in Kinosaki Onsen, we recommend stocking up on some goodies from a local bakery and enjoying a picnic spread on the grounds of Izushi Castle Ruins.
Tip: the cherry blossom season is especially gorgeous!
"When in Izushi"
In Kinosaki Onsen, you may have strolled through town in a yukata, aka a lighter version of a kimono.
Similarly, wearing a kimono to explore the bygone-era townscape of Izushi is a must! After breakfast, trot down the stone stairs from the Izushi castle Ruins and over to Kimono Rental Mu, home to Izushi's largest selection of kimono to rent for up to 3 hours.
Slip back in time in the kimono of your choice with the help of staff, leave any cumbersome belongings in the shop for safekeeping, and let the time travel begin!
Shinkoro Clock Tower
The best spots for kimono-clad photos include right in front of Shinkoro Clock Tower, the symbol of the town and known for being the oldest Japanese-style clock tower in the world.
Back towards the Izushi Castle Ruins, Arikoyama Inari Shrine is the place to go for that coveted vermillion red torii gate snapshot minus the crowds of tourists.
Visit a Samurai
Got all the photos your heart could possibly desire? Think not!
A quick walk over to Samurai House Karoyashiki will pop you into a day in the life of a samurai.
As the former home of a top samurai in Izushi, Karoyashiki's stunning architecture is another ideal shutter spot for some snaps in your kimono.
Our recommendation? A postcard-worthy picture with the feudal lord himself.
Before changing back into your everyday clothes, how about purchasing, or better yet, making your own version of Izushi's ultimate kimono accessory - a willow craft bag!
What is willow craft, you ask? Also known as yanagi-gori, willow craft is wickerwork that is made by hand using only a species of willow that thrives in the area.
At Kiryu Traditional Crafts, you can create your own wicker bag under the guidance of one of the apprentices of Takumi Terauchi, the only craftsman in Japan who has received national certification as a willow crafting artisan.
Depending on the day, you might be able to meet the pro himself!
With your new bag in tow, slip back into your everyday clothes back at Kimono Rental Mu and head on over to Mikura Soba, one of Izushi's 40-plus Izushi Sara Soba Restaurants.
Here, you will be quelling your grumbling stomach with a soba noodle lunch made by your own hand.
While soba is usually served in large dishes, Izushi Sara Soba is served in small portions on small plates made of the local porcelain Izushi Pottery.
After kneading, cutting, and cooking the noodles with the help of a pro, your lunch is at last served!
If you're itching for something sweet after the soba, consider popping into Plants+, a cozy cafe enveloped in greenery serving up delicious cookies, cakes, and coffee.
Take a seat, munch on a snack, and soak up the good green vibes.
Looking to take a plant home? Try out Plants+'s Izushi Pottery succulent workshop.
If you didn't get to meet the willow crafting pro Takumi Terauchi at Kiryu Traditional Crafts, here's your second chance!
Takumi Kogei is his main workshop where he sells baskets, suitcases, and more.
Izushi Pottery Shops
Multiple shops specializing in Izushi Pottery line the town streets, displaying countless options for a luxurious porcelain souvenir.
As the day progresses, we get it.
Despite all of the photos you took in your kimono earlier, what's a few more for the memories?
Here are some options:
Izushi History Musuem
The Izushi History Museum is housed in the former residence of the Fukutomi family, a wealthy merchant family who traded raw silk and cast metal products.
The main building is designed in a traditional machiya-style layout with a mise, a nakanoma, and a tatami room, complete with a Japanese garden in the center.
Originally a government office, Meijikan is particularly well-known for its specialized architectural style known as "giyofu" which mimics Western-style architecture through the use of Japanese construction techniques.
Curtain Call: End the day at Eirakukan Kabuki Theater
The finale of the day is a tour of Eirakukan Kabuki Theater, the oldest Kabuki theater in the area.
Built in 1901, Eirakukan welcomes modern-day visitors to follow the footsteps of famous kabuki actors with all all-access-pass to wander above and even underneath the century-old stage!
Talk about a VIP experience!
Your Accommodation: Silk Onsen Yamabiko
Hopping back in the car and 20 minutes east will land you at Silk Onsen Yamabiko, an all-inclusive hot spring resort in the neighboring town of Tanto.
Before dinner in your room, check in and head to the hot springs on the first floor.
Can you guess why the inn has "silk" in the name? Here's a hint: it has to do with the hot springs!
Silk Onsen Yamabiko's hot spring water has a reputation for its rich mineral composition, leaving skin feeling smooth, soft, and silky.
You can even feel the silky texture just by running a hand through the water!
The Best of Beef
Most dinners at Silk Onsen Yamabiko include a little something called Tajima Beef, aka the juiciest, most marbled beef in the world. “But wait! Isn’t that supposed to be Kobe Beef?” many of you may be asking yourselves while reading this - and you would still be correct! Kobe Beef is actually a branding of Tajima Beef. The original beef is named after the Tajima region of Japan where, you guessed it, Tanto is located! So sit back at the table and rest assured that your meal does indeed include some of the world’s finest meaty delicacies.