Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Kinosaki Onsen and the Stunning Michelin Certified Scenery

Kinosaki Onsen (城崎温泉) in northern Hyōgo Prefecture has become more and more popular among tourists both locally and overseas. And it won’t be hard to understand the reason at all once you have seen the Michelin two-star rated scenery from Mt. Daishi (大師山) and the other historical and cultural charms of the hot spring resort that has prospered for more than 1,300 years!

And the best thing about the onsen town is that it offers many vegetarian-friendly accommodations and dining options!

The main town of Kinosaki Onsen looks a bit similar to Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter in the way that shops, ryokans, and willow trees are lined along a river – Ōtani River (大谿川) in this case. Like Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter, the stone bridge crossing the river is one of the best photo spots in Kinosaki.

The difference is, whether you are staying there overnight or not, you get to enjoy the nice onsen here!

© Hyogo Tourism Bureau

Here is a list of places that you will want to consider visiting when you come to Kinosaki Onsen (=゚ω゚)ノ. Also, HERE is the English map of Kinosaki Onsen Town.

How to Get to Kinosaki Onsen

© photo-ac.com

The easiest way to get to Kinosaki Onsen is by taking the Limited Express Kinosaki (特急きのさき) from JR Kyoto Station (京都駅). In just 2 hours and 20 minutes, you will be taken to JR Kinosaki Onsen Station (城崎温泉駅), which is just a 5-minute walk from the center of the hot spring resort.

If you are driving, it takes around 3.5 hours from Osaka and 3 hours from Kyoto.

There are also direct bus services from Tokyo and major cities in and around Kansai, such as Osaka, Kobe, and Kyoto, to Kinosaki Onsen as a cheaper transportation option.

Convenient Services Provided by Kinosaki Onsen Ryokan Service Center (城崎温泉観光センター)

After you get off the train at JR Kinosaki Station, you can head to the Kinosaki Onsen Ryokan Service Center opposite the station to access the below list of services.

  • Between 9 am and 2 pm, you can utilize the town’s luggage delivery service provided by the Kinosaki Onsen Ryokan Service Center (城崎温泉観光センター) to drop off your belongings at your accommodations for 200 yen
  • Between 12:30 pm and 6 pm, you can also board the “Check-In Bus” that will be waiting for you outside the station to drop you off at the ryokan you will stay for the night
    • This free service is for guests who haven’t checked in only
  • Utilize the coin-lockers/luggage storage service and rent a bike from Kinosaki Onsen Tourism Association (城崎温泉観光協会) in front of the station from 500 yen to save time on traveling between the attractions in the town and the surrounding areas
  • In case it rains, pink umbrellas with tags are available at JR Kinosaki Station, all the public bathhouses, Kinosaki Onsen Tourism Association (城崎温泉観光協会), and Kinosaki Bungeikan Heritage Museum (城崎文芸館)
  • Bicycle rental services:
    • Normal bikes
      • 500 yen for 2 hours
      • 1,000 yen for 1 day
    • Electric-assisted bikes
      • 600 yen for 2 hours
      • 1,200 yen for 1 day
    • Additional hours are charged at 200 yen per hour

Tips:
☛ Get a Yukata to Kani Ōkoku Passport (ゆかたとかに王国 パスポート) from Kinosaki Onsen Tourism Association for 200 yen to get a variety of discounts and freebies at most of the facilities in Kinosaki Onsen (including bike rental). Before you leave Kinosaki Onsen, fill out the application form on the last page of the passport to enter the drawing that is held once a quarter. Because the passport is valid for one year, you will get a total of 4 chances to win a big prize (you will need an address in Japan, though)! For a list of participating shops/facilities, please refer to HERE. You can translate the webpage by using the Google Translate function at the right of the address bar of Google Chrome.
☛ Print out the coupon HERE for discounts and freebies at various facilities in Kinosaki Onsen.

A Bit of History of Kinosaki Onsen

There are two different versions of the discovery of Kinosaki Onsen. One is linked to the origin of one of the seven public bathhouses – Kou-no-Yu (鴻の湯). The hot spring source was uncovered around 1,400 years ago when a stork couple had the wounds on their legs healed after soaking in the spring for a couple of days. From the myth, the locals regard Kou-no-Yu as a hot spring of longevity and happiness.

The other version relates to a monk – Dōchi Shōnin (道智上人), who chanted for three years to pray for a way to save the locals from suffering because of sickness. In 720, he received an oracle that pointed him to the spring source with great medical effects, which is the origin of Kinosaki Onsen.

Most of the buildings that we see today in the onsen town are, however, relatively new. Damaged by the big earthquake in 1925, the entire Kinosaki Onsen underwent a major restoration. Combining the efforts of many, the key infrastructures were restored in just ten years.

The Seven Public Bathhouse in Kinosaki Onsen

In Kinosaki, the bathing area in ryokans is called Uchiyu (内湯), and the public bathhouse that can be accessed by anyone (as long as you pay your way in) is called Sotoyu (外湯).

Because the seven public bathhouses in Kinosaki differ in terms of hot spring temperature, interior designs, and of course, history, a common way to enjoy Kinosaki is to jump from one bathhouse to another.

© 豊岡市

For a brief introduction to each public bathhouse, please refer to pages 13 to 15 on the official English pamphlet HERE.

Tips: Get a One-Day Pass Yumepa (城崎温泉1日入浴券 ゆめぱ) for access to all 7 bathhouses in Kinosaki Onsen as many times as you want within a day
 ☆彡The pass is sold at the ticket counter at all of the 7 bathhouses
 ☆彡The cost is 1,300 yen for adults and 650 yen for children. This means if you plan to visit more than one bathhouse, you will be saving money with this pass
 ☆彡 Check how congested it is at each public bathhouse HERE. It is in Japanese, but you can easily read the %.

Note the bathhouses won’t be giving out the No. 1 Plaque (一番札) from March 2021 because this commemorative gift that was given to the first male and female customers of the day at each bathhouse had resulted in too much competition between the guests.

Kiyamachikouji (木屋町小路)

Locating at the center of Kinosaki Onsen, the alley is a new attraction in the town with ten boutique stores with the theme of “Japanese Liveliness”. From local specialties to beauty salons, it is like a pocket version of Ginza in Tokyo!

Just be aware that most tourists choose to relax in their ryokan rooms and/or onsen, so most shops here close early, around dinner time.

© 豊岡市

Kinosaki Onsen Ropeway (城崎温泉ロープウェイ)

At the back of Kinosaki Onsen Town, a ropeway will bring you all the way up to the summit of Mt. Daishi (大師山) for the Michelin scenery!

For your return trip, you can also walk down from the summit and drop by Kinosaki Onsen’s guardian temple – Onsenji. But just note although walking down the hill may seem to be an easy task, it will be quite a burden for your knees. It will be easier to utilize the ropeway.

Also, before you get to the ropeway from the foot of Mt. Daishi, you have to climb a set of long and steep staircases.

© 豊岡市
© photo-ac.com

For the ropeway’s timetable and cost, please refer to their website HERE. The language menu will appear when you hover your mouse over the globe icon at the top right-hand side.

Important: The opening hours of the Miharashi Terrace Cafe at the top of the mountain are from 10 am to 4 pm. Because of the awesome view from the cafe, it is better to get to the summit while it is open.

Tips:
☛ If you are staying overnight at Kinosaki Onsen, check with your accommodation to see if they have ropeway’s coupon or show your Yukata to Kani Ōkoku Passport for a discount for your ropeway ticket.
☛ Also, remember to show your ropeway ticket for your admission to Onsenji Temple for a discount
☛ You can request a pick-up service with your hotel’s reception. But you will still need to climb that 97 staircases to board the ropeway

Onsenji Temple (温泉寺)

Remember our history talk about how the monk – Dōchi Shōnin (道智上人) uncovered the spring source of Kinosaki Onsen? The story continues.

© 豊岡市

In 738, he established the Onsenji Temple and enshrined a Kannon statue to look after the onsen town. The Kannon statue isn’t just any other statue that Dōchi Shōnin picked up from some random places. The same sculptor made it with the same wood as the Kannon statue in the famous Hasedera (長谷寺) Temple in Nara!

The temple is located in the middle of Mt. Daishi. There are two ways to get to the temple. The first way is climbing the pilgrimage path consisting of around 500 staircases. At the trailhead, wooden/bamboo sticks are placed for you to borrow. As most people won’t want to spend 10 to 15 minutes climbing, you will most likely have the entire path to yourself!

You can also utilize the ropeway and get off at Onsenji Station (温泉寺駅). After you have your fill of the peaceful atmosphere and beautiful scenery around the temple, either walk or take the ropeway down.

Of course, you can hike all the way down from the summit, but if you choose to do so, it is better to have proper knee protection gear.

© 豊岡市

To see the more than two meters tall Kannon statue that Dōchi Shōnin (道智上人) enshrined here, visit Onsenji during the Onsen Festival (温泉まつり) on the 23rd and the 24th of April. Otherwise, the National Important Cultural Property is only shown to the public once every 33 years.

Also, there is a hot spring drinking fountain at Yakushidō Hall (薬師堂), close to the foot of Mt. Daishi. It is said drinking the onsen is good for chronic gastrointestinal disease and chronic constipation.

Opening Hours and Admission Fee of Onsenji Temple

  • The temple is open from 9 am to 5 pm but might close if the ropeway is not operating on the day
  • It is free to stroll around the temple, but if you want to enter the main hall, it will cost 300 yen
  • Yakushidō Hall (薬師堂) is open from 8:30 am to 5 pm in summer and from 9 am to 4:30 pm in winter
  • You can also get a combo ticket for 400 yen that allows you access to Kinosaki Museum of Art (城崎美術館)

Kinosaki Straw Crafts Museum (城崎麦わら細工伝承館)

Traditional crafts such as lacquerware and pottery can be found in more than one place in Japan. However, when it comes to straw craft, you can only find it in Kinosaki.

While it might not sound too exciting because it is just so hard to relate straws with intricate artworks, wait until you see the straw crafts in the Instagram post. It is just going to overturn your stereotype of what a simple straw can be used for (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Straws dyed with different colors are pasted onto objects such as wooden boxes to form images. The resulting artwork is characterized by a silky smooth texture and a high-quality luster. If you don’t look closely, you would have thought the patterns were drawn with paint!

The museum itself isn’t big, and there aren’t any live demonstrations of how the craftsman do their magic. But from the artworks displayed in the museum and the video of the straw craft-making process, it won’t be hard to tell that this is a traditional craft that requires unimaginable concentration and high skills.

Make Your Own Straw Craft

You can also make your straw craft at the museum, which takes around 20 minutes and from 400 yen. As there is more than one craft you can choose from with different difficulty levels, talk to the museum staff to help you decide which craft you want to challenge.

Kinosaki Straw Crafts Museum’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • The museum is open from 10 am to 4 pm daily except Wednesdays. If Wednesday is a public holiday, it will close on the next business day instead
    • The last admission is at 3:30 pm
  • The admission fee is
    • 300 yen for adults
    • 200 yen for high school students
    • Free otherwise
  • The museum is about an 8-minute walk from JR Kinosaki Onsen Station (城崎温泉駅)

Hachigoro Toshima Wetland (豊岡市立ハチゴロウの戸島湿地)

If you are interested in birdwatching, venture out to Hachigoro Toshima Wetland for your chance to see some storks.

© 豊岡市

From that observation hut in the photo, you can peep into the wetlands without being noticed by waterfowl (^_-)-☆.

Tip: You will have a higher chance of spotting a stork or even a family of storks if you come between January and June.

How to Get to Hachigoro Toshima Wetland and the Hut’s Opening Hours

  • The wetland is less than a 25-minute walk away from Kinosaki Onsen Town
  • The hut’s opening hours are from 9 am to 5 pm daily except Tuesdays and from the 28th of December to the 3rd of January. If Tuesday is a public holiday, it will close on the next business day instead
  • Entry is free but they will appreciate it if you can donate to their environmental protection fund

Vegetarian-Friendly Ryokans and Restaurants at Kinosaki

Kinosaki Onsen is probably one of the most vegetarian-friendly onsen towns in Japan. There are numerous ryokans and restaurants in town that ensure you can enjoy the hot spring and meat and seafood-free delicious meals!

For a list of ryokans and restaurants that you can choose from, please refer to Kinosaki’s website HERE.

Genbudō Park (玄武洞公園)

© 豊岡市

During your time at Kinosaki Onsen, how about a side trip to Genbudō Park, which has some amazing landscapes created by volcanic activity 1.6 million years ago? Although the park is called Genbudō, which means Genbu Cave, it actually has five basalt caves, each named after one of the four Chinese mythological divine beasts.

The most astonishing fact about the caves here is that if you hold your compass close to the basalt, the NS pole will be reversed Σ(゚Д゚), due to reverse magnetism.

For more information, please refer to our article on Genbudō Park!

Hiyoriyama Coastline (日和山海岸)

Just a 10-minute drive from JR Kinosaki Onsen Station, the Hiyoriyama Coastline is a stunning ria coastal area that runs from the Maruyama River (円山川) to the east of the Takeno coast (竹野海岸).

During the day, you can walk along the promenade along the coast to enjoy the magnificent view where the Sea of Japan spreads under the cliffs with waves crashing against the rocks below the cliffs.

The view from Cape Onmachi (御待岬) is exceptionally superb, from where you might even get a peep of the performances in Kinosaki Marine World.

The time of the day that we recommend you to be at Hiyoriyama Coastline is, however, before dawn. This is especially if you are visiting the area in late autumn when there is a great chance the coast will be covered by fog at dawn for some legendary scenery!

Hiyoriyama Coastline and the Japanese Fairy Tale – Urashima Tarō

If you have browsed through the Instagram post above, you might have noticed the small island off the coast. The uninhabited island Nochigashima (後ヶ島) has a strong connection with the Japanese fairy tale – Urashima Tarō (浦島 太郎) (refer to Wikipedia for the story plot). According to the local myth, Nochigashima Island is where Urashima Tarō opened the mysterious box the princess gave him before he left the dragon king’s palace in the sea.

In 1950, some palace buildings were built on the island so that the myth can be passed on to future generations. And to us tourists, we cross our fingers before heading to bed the night before for the mysterious view of the palace covered in fog at dawn the next day!

Even if the day is clear in the morning, your effort of getting up early will still pay off because the sunrise here is just extraordinary!

You can also cycle your way to the Hiyoriyama Coastline from Kinosaki Onsen. It will just take around 25 minutes for a one-way trip (^_-)-☆.

Festivals at Kinosaki Onsen

  • Late March to early April: Cherry Blossom Festival with nighttime light up
  • The 23rd and the 24th of April: Onsen Festival (温泉んまつり)
  • The 3rd to the 5th of May: Shōbuyu Festival (しょうぶ湯まつり)
    • You will be enjoying baths with Iris leaves in
  • The 4th of August in 2021: Kinosaki Onsen Furusato Festival (城崎温泉ふるさとまつり)
    • Fireworks at night with temporary stalls

© 豊岡市
  • Mid or late August: Ōtanigawa Nōryō Tōrōnagashi (大谿川納涼灯篭流し)
    • 500 lanterns will be set to float on the Ōtani River
  • The 14th and the 15th of October: Kinosaki Autumn Festival
    • Shisho Shrine (四所神社)’s annual festival to pray for prosperity that will have festival floats parading in Kinosaki Onsen
© 豊岡市

The autumn foliage usually peaks at Kinosaki Onsen from mid to late November. One of the best spots for autumn scenery is the Higashiyama Park (東山公園) which is around a 10-minute walk from JR Kinosaki Station.

Making a Side Tour for the Castle in the Sky

Takeda-Castle-Ruins-Sea-of-Clouds-Asago-Hyogo-Japan-
Click the photo to find out more about where you can see this astonishing scenery!

Not too far from Kinosaki Onsen, the Takeda Castle is known as one of the Three Castles in the Sky in Japan. If you haven’t had enough spectacular scenery, how about heading to the castle after visiting Kinosaki Onsen?

For more information about the amazing scenery, please refer to our article on Takeda Castle!

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