A visit to Kinosaki Onsen is a truly unique Japanese experience. You’ll be able to combine visiting a traditional picturesque village close to the Sea of Japan coast, with visiting an onsen and staying in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese Inn.
There are more than 2,300 onsens in Japan, and several towns have multiple onsens, Kinosaki onsen is one of the best because of the proximity of all of the public onsens to the train station and each other.
Many of the traditional inns in Kinosaki Onsen are onsen ryokans, so you can bring together two Japanese bucket list items in one stay. This charming onsen town in Hyogo province is easy to get to – just a couple of hours from Kyoto and very easy to navigate while you visit.
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Why go to Kinosaki Onsen Town
One of the major reasons for visiting Kinoskai Onsen is the fact that there are 7 public onsens here. The public onsens or “soto-yu” – meaning outside hot water are open to the public.
If you book and stay at a ryokan in Kinosaki you’ll get a free onsen pass that is valid for all 7 onsens. It’s valid from 1500 on the day of arrival until 1000 of the day you check out.
If you’re not staying overnight then you can purchase a day pass for 1200 YEN. Buy the Kinosaki Onsen day pass from the entrance of any of the 7 onsens in town. Passes for children cost 600 YEN.
Top Things to do in Kinosaki Onsen Town
The number one reason to visit Kinosaki Onsen is to go to the onsens here. It’s a uniquely Japanese experience, but there are many other activities here – here’s what to do in Kinosaki Onsen.
Go to an Onsen in Kinosaki Onsen
This should probably read go to an onsen or 7 in Kinosaki. While your ryokan will have onsen baths within their walls, the public onsens of Kinosaki are worth the visit alone. It’s the number one thing to do in Kinosaki.
Stay in a Ryokan in Kinosaki Onsen
A major part of the onsen town experience is staying in a ryokan or Japanese traditional Inn. We loved our stay here in Kinosaki. Read about our review of the Sinonomeso ryokan further in this post. A Japanese tradition for centuries, a ryokan stay should most definitely be on your Japanese bucket list. Read about Japanese Ryokan etiquette in our full guide here.
Take a Walk in your Yukata in Kinosaki Onsen
There’s a Japanese phrase called “Sozoro Aruki” – it means to walk for the sake of it. If you’re staying in Kinosaki Onsen town in a ryokan then you’ll be provided with a yukata for the duration of your stay. There’s nothing more relaxing (once you get over the initial terror) than walking around this gorgeous town in your yukata.
Ride the Kinosaki Onsen Ropeway
The Kinosaki Ropeway is an aerial tramway that goes to the top of Mount Taishi. At the summit e joy views of Kinosaki Onsen and as far as the Sea of Japan. The Kinosaki Ropeway is open from 0910 – 1650 Monday through Sunday. A one-way ticket to the mid-station on the Kinosaki Ropeway costs 290 yen (140 yen for children). A one-way ticket to the summit costs 460 yen (240 yen for children). Return tickets on the Kinosaki ropeway cost 560 yen to the middle station (280 yen for children), and 900 yen to the summit (450 yen for children)
Hike the Ropeway Course in Kinosaki
If you’re after a little exercise and saving a few yen, then the ropeway hiking course is a 45 minute – 60-minute hike from the bottom of the ropeway to the top. At the top, you can simply enjoy the view before heading down again or take a further 4.5kilometre hike to the summit of Mount Kuruhi.
Visit the Onsenji Temple
The Onsen-ji Temple, built-in 738, at the midway station of the ropeway, but also accessible via a hiking trail, is also worth a visit. Legend has it, that it was required before entering any of the hot springs a traveller must first visit the Onsen-ji Temple to pray for permission and to receive a special scoop that acted as a ticket for entry to the hot springs and for the pouring of hot water in the hot springs. A ticket to Onsen-ji costs 300 yen.
If you’d like to learn more about toji — the ancient bathing method from Kinosaki Onsenthere’s a great tour you can take here in Kinosaki Onsen. You’ll visit the Onsenji Temple, learn about toji, Kinosaki Onsen’s ancient bathing method and bring home a tenugui (traditional hand towel. You’ll also get to ride the Kinosaki ropeway to the summit of Mt Daishi. > Experience this superb cultural experience – check your options and dates here.
The Onsen-ji Temple houses an 11-headed Buddha-like figure. It is rare and sacred and will only be displayed until April 2021. It’s carved from the same tree that was used for the Kannon Bodhisattva in Nara’s Hasedera Temple. The legend of Kinosaki’s Bodhisattva is that it was the priest Keibun who began to carve the 11-headed Kannon, but he fell ill before its completion. The priest, hearing of the healing powers of the hot springs of Kinosaki travelled here to partake of them. While he was absent, the unfinished Kannon was thought to be the source of a plague of bad luck and so the townspeople threw it into the river. At each town along the way where it was fished out of the river bad luck followed. Eventually, it ended up in Kinosaki, where Keibun was still residing. Keibun was told by the town’s priest that it was not bad luck, but that the Kannon was angry that it was incomplete. Keibun completed the Kannon and it was enshrined in Kinoskai.
Visit the beaches near to Kinosaki
You’ll see from the top of the ropeway that the beaches aren’t far away. In summer visit Keo No Hama beach, about 20 minutes by bike (rent from the service centre near the railway station). Or visit Takeno Beach, once of Japan’s top swimming spots.
If you do spend the day on the beach be sure to secure your valuables. We use and recommend portable travel safes – here’s our guide to the best travel safes.
Go sea kayaking in the Sea of Japan
Get to experience the glorious Sea of Japan and her coastline. You get your own kayak and certified instructors (and lifesavers) to guide you on the way. See the sunset from your kayak! An excellent experience to extend your stay in the Kinosaki area. Check availability here.
Where to Stay in Kinosaki Onsen
There are many places to stay in Kinosaki Onsen – and you’ll be able to find somewhere to stay for all budgets. Spending your time in Kinosaki Onsen in a ryokan is a great way of taking two Japanese bucket list items off your list. Here are our top rated Kinosaki Onsen accommodations.
The top ryokan in Kinosaki Onsen is Nishimuraya Honkan:
Nishimuraya Honkan is a 150-year-old elegant and beautiful place to stay in Kinosaki. It’s one of the Kinosaki ryokan with private onsens. Nishimuraya has been in the same family for 7 generations, has its own private onsen and is built in the style of a Japanese tea house. There are 35 rooms here and 3 suites. The Nishimuraya Honkan is recognised as the best ryokan in Kinosaki. Many open up onto the private Japanese garden. Rooms are traditional and minimalist with tatami mat flooring, sliding shoji paper doors between areas of the room. – Check prices and book your stay in Kinosaki Onsen here.
The sister property the Nishimuraya Hotel Shogetsutei is a Kinosaki onsen hotel, providing western-style rooms with beds if you don’t want to sleep Japanese style on futon mattresses on the floor. The suites here have private terrace hot tubs with gorgeous views over the forest and a private glass-walled lounge.
Be sure to take the Kaiseki dining experience and enjoy every minute of your stay. (read more about Kaiseki in our guide to staying in a ryokan).
This ryokan is enormous with vast space to relax and just 18 guest rooms, all of which are Japanese style with tatami mat flooring and sleeping mats. There are natural hot springs and an outdoor bath with stunning views of the Maruyama River. Incredible Japanese cuisine is available onsite. Check availability and see rooms here.
Famed for its hospitality and food, you can have a private bathing experience here for free. There are also spa treatments available. A full Japanese ryokan experience is available with meals served in your room. There are indoor and outdoor hot spring baths and also a traditional Japanese garden in which to relax. Rooms are air-conditioned. Check availability and book now.
Ryokan Shinonomeso (sometimes spelt Sinonomeso)
We stayed at this mid-range ryokan in Kinosaki Onsen. Our private room had a private toilet and washbasin. All the rooms are traditional Japanese style, with lower dining tables and chairs, sleeping is on the tatami mats and futon mattresses. The ryokan has TVs in the room, and WiFi is also available. The Kaiseki room option is superb and the ryokan is within easy walking distance of the Kinosaki train station. Check availability and book now.
Kinosaki is one of the top 10 places to see Japanese Cherry Blossom in Spring – why not check out our other recommended top spots?
How to visit the Onsens in Kinosaki
If you are visiting on a day trip, take a look and see which of the onsens are open and what hours. Leave your bags at the JR station with either left luggage or in a coin locker and head to your first onsen. Buy a day pass, and begin your onsen adventure!
If you are staying overnight, its best to try and check in to your ryokan first. You’ll be able to leave your bags and also change into the ryokan provided Yukata for a true Kinosaki experience. Once you’ve checked in your ryokan will provide you with your day pass, change into your yukata, don a pair of wooden Japanese sandals and begin your exploration. You’ll never be as clean as this ever again!
The Onsens of Kinosaki Onsen Town
There are 7 public onsens in Kinosaki Onsen Town. Not all are open every day, each having at least one rest day per week, which is always published. Here are the details of the 7 public onsens in Kinosaki.
- Opening times of Goshono-Yu: 0700 – 2300.
- Closed days of Goshonu-Yu: 1st and 3rd Thursday of each month
One of the most popular onsens in Kinosaki, there is an outdoor stone bath – it looks like a rock pool, but with underwater seats – with a waterfall. Goshonu-Yu was modelled on the Imperial Palace in Kyoto and is truly lovely. The indoor bath has huge windows and a glass roof.
- Opening times of Ichino-Yu: 0700 – 2300
- Closed days of Ichino-Yu: Wednesdays
Huge and made of natural boulders, attending this soto-yu is thought to bring success and good fortune.
- Opening Times of Jizou-Yu: 0700 – 2300
- Closed days of Jizou-Yu: Fridays
Jizou-yu, sometimes Jizo-yu is popular with families is one of the smaller bathhouses, but has no outdoor bath. It has a large indoor bath and is rather plain.
- Opening times of Kounu-Yu: 0700 – 2300
- Closed days of Kouno-Yu: Tuesdays
Kouno-yu is Kinosaki Onsens first public onsen, it’s the furthest onsen from the JR Station, and takes about 20 minutes to walk here. Spending time at Kouno-yu is believed to bring you happiness and longevity in your marriage. The onsen backs onto woodland and has an outdoor stone-lined onsen as well as a large indoor hot bath with floor to ceiling windows.
- Opening Times of Mandara-Yu: 1500 – 2300
- Closed days of Mandara-Yu: Wednesdays
A visit here is said to bring business prosperity, you’ll find the Mandara-Yu just off the main street. There is a large indoor onsen as well as 2 small outdoor baths.
- Opening times of Satono-yu; 1300 – 2100
- Closed days of Satono-yu: Mondays
This huge onsen has a variety of different baths and bathing experiences from cold, to Arab and salt. As there are smaller baths contained within the experience, it’s not one huge one, so you might be lucky enough to get a bath to yourself. There are different baths on different floors and each day switches between which baths are open to men and women. It’s right next to the train station and has a free footbath outside.
- Opening Times of Yanagi-Yu: 1500 – 2300
- Closed Days of Yanagi-yu: Thursdays
One of the most traditional, but also the smallest onsen in Kinosaki. It’s made from cypress wood and a visit here is said to promote fertility and safe childbirth.
What to eat in Kinosaki Onsen
We recommend that you take meal packages at the ryokan that you stay at in Kinosaki Onsen, it’s part of the whole experience to take your breakfast and dinner in the room in traditional Japanese Style. Here are some of the specialities of this area of Norther Hyogo.
Eat Snow Crab in Kinosaki Onsen
The snow crab, or Matsuba crab, is caught between November and March each year and is fished from the Sea of Japan, just 10 minutes or so from Kinosaki Onsen. The Sekogani crab or female snow crab is smaller than the male, but with on average 100,000 roe in has quite a distinct taste. You’ll find snow crab present at the main ryokans in Kinosaki onsen.
Eat Soba Noodles in Kinosaki Onsen
Soba noodles, made of buckwheat are a Japanese staple. Hot in the winter months and cold in the warmer months. The Soba speciality in the Kinosaki area is called Izushi Sara Soba, where the soba is served on small plates, primarily to showcase the Izushi porcelain. A meal with as many as 20 plates is common. Izushi soba noodles are served with dashi, radish, yam, wasabi and spring onions. Dip the noodles in the mixture and then eat.
Drink Gubigabu Beer in Kinosaki Onsen
Since 1997 Gubigabu has been brewing beer with the same high-quality water used to produce the region’s sake. Brewed specifically to suit the local food specialities, there are currently four beers available – a lager, a stout, a wheat beer and a snow beer. Drink at the restaurant and bar Gubigabu.
Eat Tajima Beef in Kinosaki Onsen
Northern Hyogo prefecture is famous for Kobe beef – which comes from Japanese Black Cattle raised in this, the Tajima region. So Kobe beef is actually just specific cuts from specially selected Tajima beef cattle. Be sure to try Tajima beef here in Northern Hyogo! Only purebred Tajima beef, borne and raised in Hyogo prefecture can be certified as Kobe beef!
Drink Sake in Kinosaki Onsen
The local sake brewery here in this region is Sakagura and it produces the Sasazuru sake in nearby Izushi. You can visit the brewery or simply buy a bottle locally. For more on sake tasting, check out our guide to Saijo Sake – the entire town of sake breweries.
How to get to Kinosaki Onsen Town
Kinosaki Onsen is just 2.5 hours from Kyoto on the Kinosaki Limited Express train. From Osaka to Kinosaki Onsen is just 2 hours and 40 minutes. To Kinosaki from Kyoto, there are four direct trains a day, these are covered on your JR Pass (buy your JR Pass here and save, or find out more in our in-depth article on the JR Pass here). If you’re travelling to Kinosaki onsen from Osaka then there are 9 direct trains a day.
Check-in time at ryokans is usually 1500, so its best to arrive at around this time. It is considered rude to turn up late or too early. If you’re staying overnight in Kinosaki Onsen, which we highly recommend, then the free pass to the 7 public onsens is valid from 1500 on your day of arrival until 1000 on your day of check out.
How to Get Around Kinosaki Onsen
There is a free shuttle bus from the train station in Kinosaki to the local ryokans. Staff from the tourist office will be on hand to meet trains and will direct you to buses. If there is no one waiting, you can always ask at the tourist information centre across from the station.
We, however, arriving a little early, just walked to our ryokan. Most of the ryokans are a short walk from the station and Kinosaki is a gorgeous picturesque town to walk around. If you do arrive early there is a left luggage location at the station.
Best Time to Visit Kinosaki Onsen
We visited Kinosaki Onsen in October, while the town was feeling the effects of a typhoon. The benefit to this was that there were no other tourists in town. Kinosaki is beautiful in cherry blossom season, as the cherry trees line the canals. Kinosaki is popular with Japanese tourists in July and August – when there are many festivals – and in snow crab season – from November to March.
If you are very pushed for time, then a day trip to Kinosaki to visit as many onsens as you can is worth it, but an overnight stay will help you relax and enjoy more of an experience here.
Kinosaki Onsen FAQS
Is there transport in Kinosaki?
Yes, there is a free shuttle bus from the station to hotels and ryokans. If there is no one waiting at the station, then approach the information centre in front of the station for assistance.
Are tattoos allowed in the onsens in Kinosaki?
Yes. It is possible to visit the 7 public onsens of Kinosaki if you have tattoos. Some onsens within ryokans may have different rules, so please check before booking a room
Is there a currency exchange in Kinosaki Onsen?
Yes. The Sozoro information centre near the Kinosaki Onsen railway station can exchange money. It is open from 0900 until 1800. Only US dollars, Euros, Taiwanese Dollars, Hong Kong Dollars, Chinese Yuan and Thai Bhat are accepted. The service does not change yen into foreign currency.
Can I pay by credit card in Kinoskai Onsen?
It is very unlikely that you can pay with credit cards in Kinosaki Onsen. Most ryokans and businesses here accept only cash. Please check beforehand or use the currency exchange service.
Where are the ATM’s in Kinosaki?
There is an ATM in Kinosaki at the 7/11 ATM at the train station and also at the post office.
Is there a luggage storage service in Kinosaki Onsen?
Yes. The hotel information centre near the railway station has left luggage in Kinosaki onsen. You can also find coin lockers at the station and you may also be able to leave your bags at your ryokan or hotel.
Where do I get a pass for the onsens?
If you are staying at a ryokan you will be given a free onsen pass when you check-in. This gives you free access to all the 7 public onsens. It is valid from 1500 on the day you check in until 1000 the day you check out. If you wish to visit Kinosaki for a day, you can buy a day pass at the door to each of the onsens.
How much are the onsen day passes in Kinosaki?
A day pass costs 1200 Yen.
Is the Kinosaki Train Station covered on the JR Pass?
Yes. You can get to Kinosaki using the Japan Rail Pass.
Can I use an onsen privately?
Some of the ryokans in Kinosaki offer private onsen booking experiences. > Check them out here.
Our Kinosaki Onsen Ryokan Experience
We stayed at the Ryokan Shinonomeso (sometimes spelt Sinonomeso) – central in Kinosaki and a short walk from the train station. Only one person at the ryokan spoke English, but we managed by means of sign language and had a GREAT TIME. We booked ahead of time (EVERYWHERE WE WENT IN JAPAN!) – and relied a lot on reviews from others. Check out prices and availability at the Ryokan Sinonomeso here.
Costs of a Ryokan Experience
It’s no cheap endeavour, a night at a ryokan and our overnight visit including dinner and the next day’s breakfast cost us USD $250 plus a few more dollars for two small bottles of sake and a bottle of beer that we enjoyed with dinner. You’ll definitely benefit from reading our guide to staying in a Ryokan in Japan before you embark on this adventure.
For this we got a private room, private toilet, dinner and breakfast served in the room and a pass to the onsens in town. That’s right no bathroom, just a toilet and sink. And that’s normal.
The ryokan had its own baths – one for men and one for women. (and there are no photos… there was nowhere to put the camera!)
Similar to the bath we used on the ferry to Japan it was communal bathing. Although it did throw us that they swapped the baths overnight, so we both got to experience the two different bathing areas that they have.
By baths, I mean a shower area and the hot tub bath that is so common here in Japan.
The room in a ryokan is literally that. A room with tatami mats. There are low table and chairs.
Our beds were rolled up futon mattresses stored in a cupboard. Also stashed in the cupboard a yukata each and a jacket.
Wifi and a TV gave us all the comforts of home.
We arrived on the train at just after 1 pm. And headed straight to a coffee shop. Check-in wasn’t until 3 pm, so we drank great coffee and found bad internet connectivity until the rain really really started to come down before we headed in the direction of the ryokan. We’d arrived during a Typhoon!
Yup. We were sitting out the second typhoon in as many weeks to hit Japan while in a spa town. I planned on being up to my neck in hot steamy water while the wind and rain raged about me.
And so that’s how we found ourselves. Wearing yukata’s, toting a brolly from the ryokan and using the wooden clogs they give you (well I did, Nige’s feet were too big, so he got special western plastic sandals) and tottering down the main street in a typhoon.
In just a cotton dressing gown. Carrying our room key and towel in a basket.
And, after the initial terror, it was fabulous fun.
Of course, the only other people we saw out on the street were two western couples and a group of four Japanese women. And that was it. So, all those worries I had about naked bathing with a bunch of other folks. Didn’t happen.
But before we get onto how cool it was to sit outside up to my neck in hot water while a typhoon raged around us, what about the ryokan?
Well, it was sort of stressful turning up. We knew that there wasn’t going to be much English, but we figure we’ve coped so far. The biggest worry in Japan is the culture and customs that we know so little about. What if we do something offensive without realizing it? But Japan as a whole has been so helpful, so friendly and so easy to navigate.
On arrival at our Kinosaki Ryokan
Tea is served to us in the room and we confirm what time we’d like dinner. (6 pm).
We settle in, head for a quick bath in the ryokan and then get changed into our yukata’s and start reading frantically about “what to expect in your ryokan visit” – which I wrote about here.
Dinner in a Ryokan
When dinner is served there’s not enough room on the small tables for all the dishes.
There are lots and lots of small plates. A bit of so many different flavours.
AND ONE HUMONGOUS CRAB. Each.
We obviously looked dumbfounded because the lady who serves us used hand signals to indicate what we’re supposed to do. It’s my first crab. Yup. There has been crab meat in my life previously, but this is my first full crab.
It’s my first snail too. And that’s actually rather pleasant.
None of it is bad. It’s all rather pleasant. And there’s just a taste of everything (no, I don’t really know what it all was, but we did eat it all).
Just when we think we’re done, there’s more arrives. And we continue to dig in.
And there’s more. But that’s the rice, so we know that means it’s the end.
Well until the fruit.
Once we’re done, we confirm the breakfast time (check out time is 10 am tomorrow), we go for an 8 am breakfast as our train is at 11.
After dinner, we head to the onsens of Kinosaki
We’re supplied with our yukatas and a pair of Japanese wooden sandals. We are soaked within a few feet of leaving the ryokan.
Rain and wind in a typhoon don’t come straight down. The sandals are wooden, with two wooden bars across the bottom. With that and the fact that the yukata, now drenched, plasters itself to my legs means I’m walking with steps that are about a foot in length, about a third of my usual stride. This might take a while….
On our trip to Kinosaki, we visited 3 of the public onsens. My phone is safely tucked in the room, as there are no photos allowed in the onsens. There are lockers in each onsen with swimming pool like wrist bands. Each onsen is gender-segregated, but, as I mentioned, there’s hardly anyone out tonight.
Still, it’s good to see that I’m not the only one who decided to keep my underwear on beneath the yukata
This is the coolest onsen. There’s a shower area, and then a steam room, an indoor pool and an outdoor rock pool, where you can sit in three separate pools and look up the hillside to see the storm raging. Sitting in the rain watching the leaves blowing around is cool.
After the shower area where there’s a long rectangular pool with hot jets that are lovely on the back and then go through the glass door and you’re in a cave. It’s a pseudo-man-made cave, but all the same, it’s a cave.
Our final onsen in Kinosak is a disappointment. We should have come to this one first. It’s a small rectangular pool. That’s it. BORING. So boring that the group of four Japanese women, who are on the same onsen route as me take one look and don’t even bother getting their yukata off.
There are 7 onsens in town, but we’ve stopped at 3. There are only so many showers and baths that a person can take in a day and the wind and rain are getting worse as we head back to the ryokan to change our yukatas for dry ones and bed down for the night.
Sleeping in a Ryokan in Kinosaki Onsen
Our beds have been laid out and they’re surprisingly comfortable, a crab and onsen fueled coma sleep begins.
Morning Rituals in a Ryokan
It’s not just a Japanese breakfast that awaits us (after we’ve taken the obligatory shower and bath) in the morning. Although the breakfast is interesting, again it’s another selection of lots of dishes, I could murder a cup of coffee. The tea, though, is good.
Our final thoughts on visiting Kinosaki Onsen
At 1000 we leave and head towards the train station. A superb experience at our Kinosaki Onsen Ryokan, where we sat out a typhoon in a hot pool in the rain.