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. Here’s what to do in Kinosaki Onsen – besides exploring the onsens!
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#1 THING TO DO
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 15:00 on the day of arrival until 15:30 on the day you check out. Here are our selection of the best ryokans in Kinosaki that offer this deal.
If you’re not staying overnight then you can purchase a day pass for 1300 YEN. Buy the Kinosaki Onsen day pass from the entrance of any of the 7 onsens in town. Passes for children cost 650 YEN.
9 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.
1. 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. You’ll get FREE Access to the onsens if you’re staying in one of the ryokans in town. You can book a ryokan in Kinosaki here.
My guide to the onsens of Kinosaki Onsen town is here.
2. 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. A Japanese tradition for centuries, a ryokan stay should most definitely be on your Japanese bucket list. A Ryokan stay in Kinosaki includes access to the amazing onsens here. And they truly are fabulous. Here’s more on ryokans in Kinosaki Onsen
- Read about our ryokan experience in Kinosaki here
- Here are the BEST ryokans in Kinosaki Onsen
- Read about etiquette and what to expect when staying in a Ryokan
3. 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. If you’re booked into a ryokan in Kinosaki then they’ll provide you with Yukata and getos to walk around.
If you’re not staying overnight, but want to have the same experience then you can rent a yukata from IROHA Yukata Shop & Rental. Prices start at 2,200 JPY and your rental includes yukata, obi (kimono belt), yukata accessories, geta (Japanese wooden clogs), onsen basket, dressing service, and hair-styling. You’ll need to prebook here.
4. Ride the Kinosaki Onsen Ropeway
The Kinosaki Ropeway is an aerial tramway that goes to the top of Mount Taishi. At the summit enjoy views of Kinosaki Onsen and as far as the Sea of Japan. The Kinosaki Ropeway is open from 09:10 – 16:50 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)
You can get free access to the Kinosaki Onsen Ropeway with the THREE Day Kinosaki Pass – as well as a bunch of other attractions included too. Buy a Kinosaki Pass here.
5. 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 45-60 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 4.5-kilometer (2.8-mile) hike to the summit of Mount Kuruhi.
6. Visit the Onsenji Temple in Kinosaki
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 before entering any of the hot springs a traveler 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 the pouring of hot water in the hot springs. A ticket to Onsen-ji costs 300 yen.
The Onsen-ji Temple houses an 11-headed Buddha-like figure. It is rare and sacred and is only fully displayed every 33 years for a period of 3 years (next showing 2054) although it is shown each year on 23 and 24 April during the Onsen Matsuri festival. 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 traveled 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.
7. Visit the beaches near Kinosaki
You’ll see from the top of the Kinosaki ropeway that the beaches aren’t far away. In summer you can visit Keo No Hama beach, about 20 minutes by bike (rent from the service center near the railway station). Or visit Takeno Beach, one 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.
8. Go sea kayaking in the Sea of Japan
Get to experience the glorious Sea of Japan and its coastline. You get your own kayak with 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. Ask at your accommodation for the best way to go sea kayaking from Kinosaki, or make a reservation here.
9. Eat and Drink the Specialities of Kinosaki
This area of Japan is known for several specialties. While you’re in Kinosaki you should try
- Snow crab
- Tajima Beef
- Soba Noodles
I’ve covered more details on these top things to eat in Kinosaki further down, so keep reading!
Map of The Best Things to do in Kinosaki Onsen
You can also find the map of what to do in Kinosaki Onsen here.
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 specialties of this area of Northern 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 an average of 100,000, roe in has quite a distinct taste. You’ll find snow crab present at the main ryokans in Kinosaki onsen. If you like crab, then Japan has a festival for you – check out some of Japan’s most celebrated festivals here.
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 specialty 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.
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!
What to drink in Kinosaki Onsen
Meal packages in ryokans tend NOT to include drinks beyond tea, so you’ll want to check the prices of the drinks left in your minibar or head out and explore, here are two of the best things to drink in Kinosaki
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 specialties, there are currently four beers available – a lager, a stout, a wheat beer, and a snow beer. Drink at the restaurant and bar Gubigabu.
Drink Sake in Kinosaki Onsen
The local sake brewery here in this region is Sakagura and it produces 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. (Find out more in our in-depth article on the JR Pass here). If you’re traveling to Kinosaki Onsen from Osaka then there are 9 direct trains a day.
The best way to travel around Japan is by train – and you can save a fortune on train travel in Japan by buying the JR Pass BEFORE you get to Japan. You can buy the JR Pass from a number of outlets. We recommend:
Get your JR Pass from KLOOK here. – estimate 2 weeks for delivery of the exchange order
Buy a JR Pass from JRAILPASS here – get it Fedexed within 24-48 hours to any location including a Fedex office or your hotel in Japan.
Check-in time at ryokans is usually 15:00, so it’s best to arrive 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 15:00 on your day of arrival until 15:30 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 center 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.
What’s the Best Time to Visit Kinosaki Onsen
We visited Kinosaki Onsen in October, while the town was feeling the effects of a typhoon. The benefit of 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. See what ryokans are available for an overnight stay in Kinosaki Onsen here.
Frequently Asked Questions About What to do in Kinosaki
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 center 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 center near the Kinosaki Onsen railway station can exchange money. It is open from 09:00 until 18:00. 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 ATMs in Kinosaki?
There is an ATM in Kinosaki at the 7/11, an ATM at the train station and also at the post office. You can read my guide to Japanese ATMs here
Is there a luggage storage service in Kinosaki Onsen?
Yes. The hotel information center 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 in Kinosaki?
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 15:00 on the day you check in until 15:30 the day you check out. If you wish to visit Kinosaki for a day, you can buy a day pass that covers all the onsens in Kinosaki at the door to each of the onsens.
How much are the onsen day passes in Kinosaki?
A day pass to the Kinosaki onsens costs 1300 Yen for adults and 650 Yen for children.
Is the Kinosaki Train Station covered on the JR Pass?
Yes. You can get to Kinosaki using the Japan Rail Pass. Here’s a reminder to buy a JR Pass before you go to Japan, as it will save you money.
Can I use an onsen privately?
Some of the ryokans in Kinosaki offer private onsen booking experiences. You can check here which ones they are
Final Words on What to do in Kinosaki
Kinosaki is a magical town. With natural hot springs, oodles of ryokans, and traditional architecture this is a stunning place to visit. This onsen town is close to the sea of Japan coast and in a glorious area for some rather special food too. Many people visit Kinosaki because of the 7 public onsens, but there’s so much more to do here than just soak away your cares, come and explore and find out more!
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