January 23, 2018

Popular hot spring towns near Osaka

This second post of the onsen (hot spring) series will be on onsen towns in the Kansai region~

1. Kinosaki Onsen(城崎温泉)

Kinosaki Onsen is located at the northern end of Hyogo prefecture(兵庫県), which is not exactly near Osaka/Kobe city, but many visitors to the Kansai region still make their way there for the fun of going around the traditional hot spring town in yukata (summer kimono) and trying the various public baths. The town is also picturesque with willow trees lining both sides of a river.

Most visitors stay here for one night, not simply due to the rather long journey from the city, but also because the ryokan (Japanese inns) here offer delectable local specialties such as crab (seasonal) and Tajima beef. Moreover, most ryokan provide passes to visit the 7 public baths for free. For those who do not stay here for the night, the pass would cost 1200 yen.

As Kinosaki Onsen is located on the coast of the Sea of Japan, visitors can consider combining the trip with other attractions at this end of Honshu, such as Tottori's sand dunes on the left, and Kyoto's Amanohashidate 天橋立 (1 of the 3 best views of Japan which also has hot spring facilities) on the right, instead of making separate trips from the city. Both are about 2-hour train journey away from Kinosaki Onsen. Ine(伊根), known for its boat houses, can also be accessed by a 1-hour bus ride from Amanohashidate.

Another attraction is Takeda Castle(竹田城跡)aka Japan's Machu Picchu, which is on the way to/from Osaka.

Access from Osaka/Kyoto:

1. JR limited express train from Osaka/Shin-Osaka/Kyoto station (2.5 hours)
2. Zentan bus from Osaka (3 hours, low frequency)

The train journey is covered by JR pass (nationwide) and JR West Kansai Wide Area Pass.

2. Arima Onsen(有馬温泉)

Arima Onsen is probably the most accessible hot spring town from Osaka/Kobe city. It is 1 of the 3 oldest hot springs in Japan (日本三古湯), frequently visited by Japan's second great unifier Toyotomi Hideyoshi in the 16th century.

Arima Onsen is well-known for its brown-colored Kinsen 金泉 (gold water) and clear Ginsen 銀泉 (silver water). The former has iron deposits believed to be good for the skin and muscle aches, while the latter has radium and carbonate for relieving muscle and joint pains.

Due to its accessibility and compact size, many visitors come here as a day trip. Several onsen ryokan are opened to non-staying visitors. There are also 2 public baths, one with Kinsen and the other with Ginsen.

One of the most famous/popular facilities is Taiko no Yu(太閤の湯), which I have been to twice. It has over 20 types of baths (both Kinsen and Ginsen), massage services and restaurant. Admission fee is slightly pricey at around 2500 yen, but discount packages are often launched with the Kobe subway, reducing total cost of traveling here for hot spring. Discounted admission tickets are also available at discount ticket shops in Kobe.

Many visitors to Arima Onsen also combine the trip with Mount Rokko, the highest peak in the mountain range near Kobe city. It has a few small attractions such as music box museum, botanical garden, pasture with flowers & sheep, and art exhibits in autumn. It is also one of the places to see Kobe's night view, known as 1 of the top 3 in Japan.

Access from Osaka:

Hankyu/JR bus from Hankyu Umeda/JR Osaka station (1 hour), via Shin-Osaka station (50 minutes)

Access from Kobe:

1. Subway from Sannomiya/Shin-Kobe station to Tanigami station, transfer to Shintetsu Arima-Sanda Line and alight at Arima-guchi station, transfer again to Arima Line and alight at Arima Onsen station (40 minutes)
2. Hankyu/Shinki bus from Sannomiya station (50 minutes), via Shin-Kobe station (35 minutes)
3. JR bus from Shin-Kobe station (50 minutes), via Sannomiya station (30 minutes)

Access from top of Mount Rokko:

Bus from top station of Rokko Cablecar to top station of Rokko Arima Ropeway (10 minutes), take the ropeway to Arima Onsen (12 minutes)

The "Rokko Arima Katamichi Joshaken"(六甲有馬片道乗車券)ticket consists of one-way ride on the cablecar and ropeway, plus unlimited bus rides on Mount Rokko.

For Taiko no Yu, shuttle bus services are provided from Arima Onsen station and Ropeway Arima Onsen station.

3. Shirahama Onsen(白浜温泉)

Shirahama Onsen located at the southern end of Wakayama prefecture(和歌山県), south of Osaka, is also 1 of the 3 oldest hot springs in Japan. Many ryokan dot the coastline and offer baths with panoramic sea view, similar to Atami Onsen(熱海温泉)at the other side of Japan.

Another draw of Shirahama Onsen is the many attractions in the vicinity, sufficient for 2D1N at least. It is especially suitable for families with young children, because of the amusement parks and zoo such as Energy Land and Adventure World. There are also rock formations and public baths, including Sakinoyu, an outdoor hot spring right on the shore!

Nanki Shirahama Toretore Market sells fresh seafood and local specialties. Most of the attractions in Shirahama can be accessed by a bus that runs from Shirahama station.

If these are still insufficient, take the train southwards to Kumano Kodo(熊野古道), pilgrimage routes designated as UNESCO heritage site. Enjoy hiking through the forests to the 3 sacred shrines (Kumano Sanzan), with nice views of waterfall, valleys and mountains on the way.

Access from Osaka:

JR limited express train from Shin-Osaka station (2.5 hours)

4. Awaji Island(淡路島)

Awaji island at the south of Kobe, is the largest of the Seto Inland Sea islands. This laid-back island is home to a few hot springs such as Sumoto Onsen(洲本温泉), Minami Awaji Onsen(南あわじ温泉)and Iwaya Onsen(岩屋温泉).

Attractions on/near the island include famous architect Tadao Ando's Yumebutai Gardens(淡路夢舞台), Naruto whirlpools, monkey center, parks with seasonal flowers (daffodils, sunflowers, rape blossom, tulips etc.) and activities such as horse-riding and blueberry picking. Food is also something to look forward to, as Awaji island is known for high-quality onions, dairy products, beef and seafood.

The island can be accessed by ferry or bus from the mainland, though the most convenient way to explore the attractions on the island is by car.

Access by ferry:

Akashi Port (near JR Akashi station in Hyogo prefecture) to Iwaya on Awaji island (13 minutes)

Access by bus:

From bus terminal at JR Maiko station in Hyogo prefecture (14 minutes to about 1 hour, depending on alighting point)

There are also buses that run from JR Osaka, Shin-Kobe and Sannomiya stations, but the frequency is lower and journey is much longer than taking the train to Maiko station and transferring to the bus.

Other notable hot springs in Kansai include:

Yumura Onsen(湯村温泉):

Traditional hot spring town located higher up in the Hyogo prefecture. It is slightly less accessible compared to Kinosaki Onsen, requiring a bus transfer from the nearest train station. Direct buses (3 hours) from Osaka and Kobe are also available.

Kasumi Onsen(香住温泉):

Situated along the Sea of Japan in Hyogo prefecture, near Kinosaki Onsen. Known for delicious crabs, food offered by ryokan in the vicinity is as sumptuous as those in Kinosaki Onsen. There is nothing much to do in this tranquil seaside town, but the beautiful sea views (especially during sunset) pretty much made up for it.

Kurama Onsen(鞍馬温泉):

For those who can only afford a day-trip from Kyoto city, the most viable option would be Kurama Onsen, a ryokan in a rural town in the northern mountains of Kyoto city. It has an attractive rotenburo (outdoor hot spring) offering greenery/snow views depending on season. Other than onsen, visitors can also take the cable car up to Kurama-dera (temple) for mountain views.

Arashiyama Onsen(嵐山温泉):

Unknown to most people, the scenic Arashiyama region is also a place to enjoy hot spring. There are a few ryokan offering natural hot spring baths, though most of their accommodation plans are rather pricey.

For more information on what else to do in the same prefecture:

Arima Onsen/Kinosaki Onsen/Awaji Island/Yumura Onsen/Kasumi Onsen: Hyogo Prefecture
Shirahama Onsen: Wakayama Prefecture
Kurama Onsen/Arashiyama Onsen: Kyoto Prefecture

First post of this series on Popular Hot Spring Towns near Tokyo.
Third post of this series on Popular Hot Spring Towns near Fukuoka.


Post a Comment