The Japanese town of Kinosaki, 160km north of Osaka, is renowned for having numerous unique and charming onsens (hot baths).
But there’s a lot more to the town than lying around, pruning in Kinosaki Onsen, however delightful that may sound. Here are 10 ways you can enjoy the town like a local.
1. Walk the backroads of Kinosaki: All visitors are familiar with the main willow-lined canal street, but some of Kinosaki’s less-travelled roads provide beautiful views as well. Visitors can stroll down Kiyamachi Street and see gorgeous cherry blossom trees in the beginning of April. Be sure to trek up to the hidden views at Yu no Yama Park and the red torii gates at Benten Shrine in Benten Park as well.
2. Relax at a cosy café: Kinosaki Onsen is full of modern, stylish cafés that can help you relax even more during your stay. One of these cafés is OFF. Kinosaki, which first opened in 2018 and became an instant hit with locals and tourists alike. Stop here for a lunch plate with all local and organic ingredients or a scrumptious dessert.
3. Pray at Shisho Shrine: Visit Shisho Shrine, the guardian shrine of Kinosaki Onsen that is said to house the deity that protects the hot spring town and its people. During the warmer months, worshippers have the opportunity to cleanse themselves in a flower-filled chozuya (water pavilion) before paying their respects to the enshrined gods while appreciating the colourful blooms floating alongside their hands.
4. Collect hot spring stamps: Guests participate in a “stamp rally,” as it’s known in Japanese, by purchasing a pamphlet with a map and hopping to stamp collection sections at various accommodations in town. You will find a special stamp for the pamphlet at each bathhouse. Some inns offer prizes for completing this hot spring pilgrimage.
5. Enjoy some local sweets and snacks: Kinosaki’s streets offer many different types of sweets and snacks. For sweets, some local favourites include creamy cheese tarts from Yuagari, limited edition strawberry daifuku from Minatoya, and ice cream from Itaya. At Tajimagyu Delica Chaya, try a Tajima gyuman, a bun filled with Tajima beef, or a kaniman, a bun filled with crab.
6. Soak in the town’s footbaths: Within Kinosaki Onsen, there are 5 footbaths located throughout town: outside of Satono-yu, outside of Yanagi-yu, near Ichino-yu, near the Ropeway, and outside of the Kinosaki Literature Museum. Free to use, these footbaths are perfect for refreshing tired feet.
7. See the fish markets: As Kinosaki Onsen is close to the Sea of Japan, fishermen sell their catches to the fish markets and eateries in town. The area is especially known for winter snow crab. One shop named Okesho Fish Market was established in 1925 when the grandmother of the current owner began selling fish to support her family. Choose from any one of the fresh fish on sale on the first floor and Okesho will prepare and serve it to you upstairs.
8. Hike up Mt. Daishi: Mt. Daishi presents a hiking course through the lush forest in the back of town with a dense tree canopy and little stone guardians. Visitors can hike 15 minutes up halfway to Onsenji Temple, or 45 minutes all the way to the top of the mountain. The hot springs in town below provide a great place to rest afterwards.
9. Bike to the Genbudo Caves: Rent a bicycle from the SOZORO Kinosaki Information Center, located right across the street from Kinosaki Onsen Station. Ride across and then along the Maruyama River to reach the Genbudo Caves in about 20 minutes. Genbudo is a sight to behold, with 5 caves made of columnar joints that formed over 1.6 million years ago.
10. Explore one of the nearby towns: Kinosaki Onsen has much to offer, but you can also visit one of the nearby towns. The area is home to Izushi, the historic castle town; Takeno, the retro beach town; Toyooka, a downtown hub home to bag-making and the Oriental White Stork; Kannabe, the green highlands; and Tanto, the quiet countryside.