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 because of the Michelin two-star rated scenery from Mt. Daishi (大師山) and other historical and cultural charms of the hot spring resort that has prospered for more than 1,300 years! And the great news is that the onsen town has a couple of vegan-friendly hotels/ryokans 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

Kinosaki Onsen’s Attractions

Refer to HERE for the English map of Kinosaki Onsen.

Tips:
☛ If you plan to spend a night at Kinosaki Onsen, consider Kawaguchiya Kinosaki Riverside Hotel. The elegantly decorated hotel provides various services to its guests, including fetching service to the hot spring town’s bathhouses and Yukata dressing!
☛ Purchase the Kinosaki Must-Visits 3 Days Pass to save if you plan to utilize the ropeway and join a straw craftwork workshop. Showing the pass will also give you discounts at various shops and restaurants in Kinosaki Onsen!

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 plan to depart from Osaka, take the limited express, Kounotori (特急こうのとり), from JR Osaka or JR Shin-Osaka Station.

If you plan to drive, 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 list of services below.

  • A luggage delivery service to your accommodation is available if you stay in a ryokan that is a member of the Kinosaki Onsen Ryokan Association.
    • The cost is 200 yen per piece.
  • You can also store your luggage for 500 yen.
  • There are also coin-operated lockers at the Kinosaki Onsen Ryokan Service Center.
  • Between 12:30 pm and 6 pm, you can also board the “Check-In Bus (チェクインバス)” outside the station to drop you off at the ryokan, where you will stay for the night.
    • This free service is only for guests who haven’t checked in.
    • Your accommodation must be a Kinosaki Onsen Ryokan Association member to utilize this service.
    • The bus operates at 30-minute intervals.
  • 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
      • 800 yen for 2 hours
      • 1,600 yen for 1 day
    • Electric-assisted bikes
      • 1,200 yen for 2 hours
      • 2,400 yen for 1 day
    • Additional hours are charged at 400 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 300 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 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.

The 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

Kinosaki Onsen (城崎温泉) has seven public bathhouses, each with its own characteristics. The hot spring temperature, interior designs, and history all differ. Thus, a common way to enjoy Kinosaki is to jump from one bathhouse to another, which is referred to as the Sotoyu-meguri (外湯めぐり).

For more information about the public bathhouses, including the best one to visit, refer to our Kinosaki Onsen’s 7 Public Bathhouses article!

Ichi-no-Yu-Kinosaki-Onsen-Tooyoka-Hyogo-Japan
© 豊岡市

Kinosaki Onsen’s Foot Spa and Hot Spring Drinking Fountains

In addition to the seven public bathhouses and countless onsen ryokans, Kinosaki Onsen also has a couple of free hot spring facilities. Throughout the hot spring town, you will find foot spas where you can enjoy the town’s natural blessing for free. Close to Kinosaki Station and opposite one of the public bathhouses, Ichi no Yu, there is also a hot spring drinking fountain for you to benefit from the hot spring’s medical quality by drinking it!

So, when you visit Kinosaki Onsen, remember to bring a towel to dry your feet and a cup or a water bottle to taste the town’s famous hot spring!

Kiyamachi Kouji Street (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 relax in their ryokan rooms and/or onsen, so most shops here close early, around dinner time.

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

Tips:
☛ The opening hours of the Miharashi Terrace Cafe at the top of the mountain are from 10 am to 4 pm daily except for the 2nd and the 4th Thursday. The view from the cafe is awesome, so visit the summit while it is open.
☛ If you are staying overnight at Kinosaki Onsen, check with your accommodation to see if they have a ropeway 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 those 97 staircases to board the ropeway.

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

Note the ropeway is usually very congested after 1 pm.

Onsenji Temple (温泉寺)

If you have read our Kinosaki Onsen article, do you remember our history talk about the monk, Dōchi Shōnin (道智上人), who uncovered the spring source of the hot spring town? The story continues.

Onsenji-Temple-Hondo-Onsen-Tooyoka-Hyogo-Japan
© 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!

For more information about the temple buried in stunning nature, refer to our Onsenji Temple article!

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 museum. It is going to overturn your stereotype of what a simple straw can be used for!

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 two-story museum itself is small. Although there won’t be any live demonstrations of how the craftsman do their magic, a straw craft documentary is played repeatedly (2nd last photo in the Instagram post). The video has English subtitles, so you can understand the entire process.

By examining the artworks displayed and watching the short film, it won’t be hard to tell that this traditional craft requires unimaginable concentration and high skills!

Make Your 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.

The finished goods of the workshops are displayed next to the reception (the last photo in the Instagram post). Check them out and see if you want to make one!

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)

© 豊岡市

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

Restaurant-Ricca-Kinosaki-Onsen-Toyooka-Hyogo-Japan
© 西村屋ホテル招月庭 レストランRicca

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

For a list of ryokans and restaurants you can choose from, please refer to our Vegan-Friendly Spots in and Close to Kinosaki Onsen article!

Genbudō Park (玄武洞公園)

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.

© 豊岡市

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 true 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 to pass the myth 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 to get 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
  • In the beginning of August: Kinosaki Onsen Furusato Festival (城崎温泉ふるさとまつり)
    • Fireworks at night with temporary stalls
    • Refer to the official website HERE for the exact date.
© 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 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 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 Japan’s Three Castles in the Sky. If you haven’t had enough spectacular scenery, how about visiting 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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