Staying in a ryokan in Kinosaki was the highlight of our first trip to Japan. We opted to go to Kinosaki because we wanted to go to an onsen town and stay in a ryokan there. And, of course, for the food. Each region of Japan has specialties and we were here for the food too. Staying in a ryokan is a bucket list experience and I can’t recommend it enough. So here’s what to expect in Kinosaki ryokans and here’s our Kinosaki Onsen Ryokan experience.
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Where to stay in Kinosaki Onsen
There are a variety of places to stay in Kinosaki from regular dorm rooms to amazing ryokans with private onsen baths. There are 74 – yes SEVENTY-FOUR ryokans in Kinosaki – so you’ll want to read my guide to the best ryokans in Kinosaki to at least get a top 10 to choose from.
Kinosaki for us was about knocking off two items on our Japan bucket list – staying in a ryokan and going to a series of onsens, or public baths. So here’s our experience of staying in a ryokan in Kinosaki.
Staying at the Ryokan Shinomeso in Kinosaki
We stayed at the Ryokan Shinonomeso (sometimes spelled Sinonomeso) – central in Kinosaki and a short walk from the train station. Only one person at the ryokan spoke English, but we managed using 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.
The Costs of a Ryokan Experience in Kinosaki
A night at a ryokan is no cheap endeavor 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 our US$250 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 are no cameras allowed in onsen baths).
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.
What are rooms like in Kinosaki Ryokans?
The room in a ryokan is literally that. A room with tatami mats. There are low tables and chairs.
Our beds were rolled-up futon mattresses stored in a cupboard. Also stashed in the cupboard are a yukata each and a jacket. Wifi and a TV gave us all the comforts of home.
Our arrival in Kinosaki Onsen Town
We arrived on the train just after 1 pm, we came on the JR Train from Osaka. And we 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! (which, it turns out was a FABULOUS time to come to Kinosaki!)
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 during the typhoon in Kinosaki.
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. Although as the typhoon brought the rain sideways the umbrella was more of a liability than anything else!
So yes, we were walking around an onsen town in Japan. In just a thin cotton dressing gown. Carrying our room key and towel in a basket.
And, after the initial terror, it was fabulous fun.
The terror that I’m referring to of course is getting naked with a bunch of strangers.
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?
Arriving at our Ryokan in Kinosaki
Well, it was sort of stressful turning up. We knew that there wasn’t going to be much English, but we figure we’d 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 was served to us in the room and we confirmed what time we’d like dinner. (6 pm).
We settled in, headed for a quick bath in the ryokan, and then got 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 was served there wasn’t room on the small tables for all the dishes that made up our Kaiseki Ryori meal in Kinosaki
There are lots and lots of small plates. A bit of so many different flavors.
AND ONE HUMONGOUS CRAB. Each.
We obviously looked dumbfounded because the lady who served us used hand signals to indicate what we were supposed to do. It’s my first crab. Yup. There has been crab meat in my life previously, but this was 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).
And 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. (Rice traditionally signals the end of this type of meal in Japan)
Well until the fruit.
Once we’re done, we confirm the breakfast time (check out time is 10 am tomorrow), and we go for an 8 am breakfast as our train is at 11. And after dinner, we head to the onsens of Kinosaki
Visiting the Onsens of Kinosaki during our Kinsoaki Ryokan Stay
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 wasn’t the only one who decided to keep my underwear on beneath the yukata. Here are the onsens that we visited in Kinosaki Onsen during our Kinosaki Onsen experience.
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, I wrote about the 7 onsens that you can visit in Kinosaki here– but we 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 traditional futon beds have been laid out and they’re nothing like the dodgy futons that you get back home. They’re surprisingly comfortable, and a crab and onsen-fueled coma sleep begins. And lasts all night.
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.
And all too soon it’s come to an end. At 10 am we leave and head towards the train station. A superb experience at our Kinosaki Onsen Ryokan, where we sat out a typhoon in a (series of) hot pools in the rain.
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Final Words on our Kinosaki Onsen Ryokan Experience
This was the highlight of our first trip to Japan, and at the time it was a budget-busting event. Add to that the nerves about all the faux pas we were likely to make and that’s even before the idea of getting naked in front of strangers at the onsen happened. But this was truly one of the most amazing experiences. The food was incredible, our ryokan was lovely, and the staff were even lovelier. Seeing out a typhoon in an onsen town in Japan. Absolute top experience and I recommend it to anyone
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