Located near the Sea of Japan in Hyogo Prefecture, Kinosaki is a quaint town with many public baths and onsen, or hot springs. The economy of the town is devoted almost entirely to hot spring tourism and crab, which is a local delicacy.
Bathing in hot springs in the area dates back 1400 years.
The resort town of Kinosaki has many ryokan (Japanese inns) and seven public baths. These draw in crowds primarily from Osaka and Kyoto, from which express trains arrive frequently.
Exiting the train station, the main street is a jumble of restaurants, antique shops, and fish stalls that sell freshly caught crab and squid and various types of fish. Crab can range in price from 1500 yen (about $15) per all the way up to 15,000 yen depending upon the size and type.
At the end of this street is the Otani River. Willows lean over this small, tree-lined canal that feeds into the Sea of Japan. In front of you is Ichi no Yu (pictured above right), a massive public bath that features a "Cave Bath." Turning left here will take you into the main area for promenading, shopping, and bathing.
Gosho no Yu, Kono Yu, and Mandara Yu are among the more popular bath houses along or near this street.
The town is also known for its traditional game arcades (at left). Wooden, non-electric games can be found in the old-fashioned arcades along this street (Yu no sato Dori).
During the day, older couples and groups of college women wander from bath house to cafe to arcade. At night, guests staying in local inns don yukata and go on a bath crawl. Unlike many over-developed hot spring resort towns--where guests spend the entire time inside using facilities at their hotel--Kinosaki has a vibrant downtown with a lot of foot traffic both day and night.
Part of the reason for this is that if you stay in a ryokan, you will be given complimentary tickets to as many of the bath houses as you like. This gets people out of their hotel and into town.
At the end of Yu no Sato Dori and off to the right, just before you come to Kono Yu bath house is Onsenji (Onsen Temple) and a ropeway up to the top of the mountain. Another temple is Gokuraku Temple, which is just up from Mandara Yu.
After our third bath--fourth if you include the pre-dinner bath at the inn--we dropped into a local izakaya pub for some of the local brew and squid on a stick.
Thus fortified, we headed back for one last bath and then the trip back to our inn.
From Kyoto Station, express trains take two and a half hours and cost 4,510 yen; from Osaka, trains take 2 hours and forty-five minutes.
Bath House Hours and Costs
Mandara Yu and Yanagi Yu are open from 3 pm - 11 pm. All other bath houses are open from 7 am - 11 pm. Bath houses cost 500 yen to enter (though guests at local inns are given complimentary tickets to all of the bath houses).
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Saturday, February 23, 2008