Kinosaki Onsen (hot spring) is located about 20 minutes drive north of central Toyooka city along the Maruyama River in northern Hyogo. With a history spanning some 1400 years, the area is richly atmospheric.
The Otani River is lined with weeping willows and timber lodgings. As the area has 3 municipal parking and 4 private parking areas, in addition to coin parking, it is easy to find a place to park and stroll around.
Touring Open Air Baths in Yukata
Having arrived in the onsen (hot spring) district, I swiftly parked my car eager to begin the famous Kinosaki experience, Sotoyu touring. Open for anyone to use, Sotoyu are public onsen that are not affiliated with hotels. The Kinosaki Onsen area features 7 sotoyu, and according to local custom the “proper” way to enjoy them is to wear yukata robe and a pair of geta sandals and walk around from onsen to onsen.
Konoyu, one of the district’s sotoyu, lies quietly all the way at the back, and offers a highly recommended rotenburo (open-air bath). As mountains form its backdrop and the bath is surrounded by trees, it really feels like you are in a secluded onsen, which makes it easy to relax. The onsen supposedly got its name because when it was first discovered there was a white stork bathing in the water. (The “ko” in Konoyu means white stork.)
Freshly Caught Fish in The Sea Of Japan
Having had a good soak in the hot baths, I was ready to eat. I wanted to try out some of the fresh seafood that is sent directly from the harbor and fish markets, so I visited the Okesho Sengyo seafood store, and entered a restaurant called Kaichuen on the 2nd floor.
Situated between the Seto Inland Sea in the south and the Sea of Japan in the north, Hyogo prefecture is very special. Okesho Sengyo is a long-established shop that serves as a seafood vendor for the two harbors that lie close to the Kinosaki Onsen district, Tsuiyama Harbor and Takeno Harbor. If you want to try the best seafood the Sea of Japan has to offer, this is the place to go! When I was here, two men were in the middle of filleting a tuna unloaded at Takeno Harbor moments earlier.
First, I had shellfish sashimi taken from large Japanese ivory shells. The delicious thin cuts were nice and crunchy and the scent of the beach spread throughout my mouth. I had never tasted anything quite like this before. If you like shellfish, it might be worth taking a trip to Kinosaki Onsen just to try these particular ones out. That being said, Kaichuen’s pièce de résistance is its seafood bowl.
My bowl featured white rice covered with amberjack, flounder, squid, octopus, shrimp, raw urchin, crab, scallop, salmon roe, salmon, and capelin roe. (The 11 different kinds of seafood change according to season.)
Careful not to put on too much and spoil the subtle flavors of the ingredients, I stirred wasabi into the sauce and poured it on. It goes without saying that the seafood was fresh, but this bowl was a masterpiece of balance in terms of flavor and texture. The elasticity of the flounder, the softness of the unraveling crab meat on top of my tongue, the sweetness of the shrimp, and the salty flavor of the octopus made a contrasting combination that kept me absorbed till the end.
Okesho Sengyo offers in-season fish and shellfish such as rockfish, hairy sting-fish, turban shells, and freshwater clams. Guests can also choose a fish on the 1st floor and have it prepared on the 2nd floor to eat. The place is particularly packed with customers during the winter crab season as everyone wants to get their hands on the meat-packed crabs!
Kinosaki Onsen Ropeway Sightseeing
The beauty of the Kinosaki Onsen townscape is acknowledged even in international guidebooks.
In order to see it from a different viewpoint, I recommend taking the Kinosaki Onsen Ropeway to the summit of Mt. Daishiyama. It is 676 meters long and takes 7 minutes to reach the top. From the observation deck you have an expansive view of the vista below, including the tiny town of Kinosaki Onsen surrounded by mountains, and the mouth of the Maruyama River joining Tsuiyama Bay.
At the summit station in the Kinosaki Coffee Miharashi Terrace Cafe, you have the beautiful view all to yourself and can relax for quite some time without worrying about the returning ropeway cars.
Back at the foot of the mountain travelers can rest at Yakushi Koen Pocket Park. Perfect for warming your feet in the cold of winter, it has (free-of-charge) foot baths full of hot water fed from Kinosaki Onsen.
Within a 10km radius of Kinosaki Onsen there are various sights such as Genbudo Park, Takenohama Beach Resort, and Kinosaki Marine World for visitors to enjoy.
Delicious. Warm. Beautiful. This traditional Japanese onsen district has it all. Please come and experience it for yourself.
Kinosaki Onsen Okesho Sengyo (Main Store)
Address:132 Kinosaki Yushima, Toyooka, Hyogo Prefecture
Tel: 0796-29-4832 (09:00 – 18:00)
Nearest station: JR Kinosaki Onsen Station
Parking: Municipal parking, private parking, coin parking nearby. The nearest is a municipal 1-hour free parking area next to Ekisha Onsen Satonoyu.
Closed: January 1st and 2nd
■The Sanin, Setouchi & Shikoku Road Map
Our sightseeing information roadmap of the Sanin, Setouchi, and Shikoku regions is now complete. The map provides easily accessible sightseeing info like never before, and with this, your road-trip is sure to be even more enjoyable. The map contains info on rent-a-car services, tourist information centers, roadside service areas, and is completely free-of-charge, so please have a look!
■Times Car Rental Tourist Information Campaign
The car rental company Times Mobility Networks Co., Ltd. is now offering a voice translation app and tourist information services for foreign travelers via tablets at several Times Car Rental stores throughout the Setouchi region. Renting a car at one of these stores means you can get more sightseeing info about specific areas, and therefore enjoy your trip even more!
Osaka: Kansai Airport
Hyogo: Sannomiya Station, Shinkobe Station, Himeji Station
Okayama: Okayama Airport, Okayama Station, Kurashiki Station
Hiroshima: Hiroshima Airport, Hiroshima Station South Exit (BIGFRONT Hiroshima), Hiroshima Otemachi
Yamaguchi: Iwakunikintaikyo Airport, Iwakuni Station, Ube Airport
Tokushima: Tokushima Airport, Tokushima Chuo
Kagawa: Takamatsu Station, Takamatsu Airport
Ehime: Matsuyama Station, Matsuyama Airport, Matsuyama Sanbancho
Fukuoka: Fukuoka Airport International Terminal
Nov. 20, 2017 – Feb. 19, 2018
※ Hiroshima stores only: Oct. 20, 2017 – Jan. 19, 2018.
Madoka Hori / Photo-writer Entrepreneurial translator/writer living in Hyogo. As a licensed English tour guide, she occasionally takes tourists to beautiful destinations such as Kobe, Himeji, Okayama, Kyoto, and Osaka and her clients have never got lost so far. On Setouchi Finder, as one of the original team members, she enjoys taking photos and sharing her favorite hidden gems. Private Photo Blog http://riderv328.tumblr.com Twitter https://twitter.com/Riderv328
> A guided tour, including teatime, where you can see the former “Koshien Hotel” – “Frank Lloyd Wright type” architecture by Arata Endo. / Koshien Hall at Mukogawa Women’s University (Nishinomiya-shi, Hyogo)
> Experience the ancient way of salt making on Kamikamagari-jima Island on the Tobishima Kaido in Aki-nada! / Kamagari Ancient Salt Making Remains Restoration Pavilion & “Amabito-no-Moshio” (Kure-shi, Hiroshima)
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