kinosaki onsen toyooka japan trip
Werbung/Press Trip
I really adore west Japan with all its beautiful destinations to visit. While my travels in Kansai, I also had the chance to visit Kinosaki Onsen, which is famous for its onsen, such as Toyooka, where I explored more of the wide landscapes and Japanese cuisine..

As I previously visited Tottori, I took the train to Kinosaki Onsen with JR line. Also, if one intends to explore more of west japan, one can buy the JR rail pass for west Japan. The JR pass for whole Japan is already well known, but many foreigners are not aware of the JR west rail pass, which is super convenient and allows you to travel in west Japan while saving a lot of money on the train costs.

kansai kinosaki travel impressions

Arrived in Kinosaki Onsen Station I was already welcomed by a representative from the tourism board and stumbled into the first onsen, located next to the tourist information center, offering various onsen goods. After a short shooting in the area I was heading to Mt. Taisha. One can decide whether to take the ropeway or walk. I suggest to walk up to the Onsenji Temple and take the ropeway to the top afterwards. The Onsenji Temple is very important for Kinosaki as one will learn about the tradition way of bathing in the hot springs at the temple. It is claimed to be the hot spring’s guardian temple. The hot spring waters have been known for their healing abilities and this is where much of the town’s fame first came from. 

kinosaki station onsen travel west japan kansai

When word reached far and wide of the healing waters of Kinosaki Onsen, people from all over suffering from ailments that prevented or impaired their ability to walk came to Kinosaki looking for pain relief or a cure. Many of those that came looking for a cure or relief found it. At the end of their stay they would leave their canes and other mobility aids that they no longer needed at the temple altar, as proof of being cured and thanks for the hot spring’s healing powers. Today you can still see some of these items on display in the eaves of the temple.

Housed within Onsen-ji Temple is a rare and sacred Bodhisattva (a Buddha-like figure) called Juichimen Kanzeon Bosatsu, or the 11-headed Kannon Bodhisattva, and means “11-faced goddess of compassion and mercy”. It is a designated national treasure and is only fully displayed every 33 years for a period of 3 years. (Currently on display from April 23, 2018 for the next 3 years only).The wooden statue is carved from the same tree that also produced the Kannon Bodhisattva located in Nara’s Hasedera Temple.

Kinosaki Onsen is known for onsen everything. I things its pretty funny that a big thing over there is onsen egg, where one, as the name reveals, boil eggs in a separate onsen. It definitely underlines the integration of onsen into the daily life. But Kinosaki Onsen has more to offer than “just” onsen. By the way, it might be interesting to mention, that foreigners with tattoos are also allowed to enter the onsen in Kinosaki Onsen.

Onsen-ji Temple is a rare and sacred Bodhisattva (a Buddha-like figure) called Juichimen Kanzeon Bosatsu

Straw craft, called mugiwara zaiku in Japanese, is a unique, traditional handicraft with vibrant colors and intricate patterns that, in all of Japan, is only produced in Kinosaki Onsen, and I was lucky enough to join the workshop for this unique experience and my small souvenir to bring home.

It is said that in mid-Edo era (around 1720 AD), a craftsman named Hanhichi from the Inshuu area (what is now Tottori Prefecture) came to stay in Kinosaki Onsen. To make money to pay for his lodging expenses, Hanhichi sold bamboo flutes and spinning tops decorated with colored straw. After this, the straw craft was also used to decorate boxes and wooden prayer plaques. After the Meiji era began, famous artists visited Kinosaki and drew sketches for the straw craft’s designs, and thus straw craft gained popularity as an authentic, popular, and unparalleled handicraft. Today, the straw is dyed, flattened, and placed on small boxes, colored paper, spinning tops, and clay bells. Kinosaki Onsen is proud to be the only place in Japan which continues the traditional production of straw craft while preserving the original skills and techniques of the past.

Straw craft, called mugiwara zaiku in Japanese

Kinosaki Onsen is a small and local place. Instead of staying with a big hotel chain, I checked in at a traditional housing named Shinonomeso Inn. It is said the town is “one Ryokan” and that the station is the entrance. Most people walk around in a yukata, which is a light kimono, often worn in summer. Especially during the night time, Kinosaki offers a romantic scenery with its bridges and small cafes. Most onsen are also open until 11pm.

traditional housing named Shinonomeso Inn japan kinosaki

Kinosaki Onsen in Toyooka, Hyogo Prefecture, has a long history of over 1,400 years. It is a famous hot spring site with beautiful scenery of all the four seasons, with willows and cherry trees lining the Otani-gawa River, which runs through the center of the hot spring town. Touring the public bathhouses (soto-yu) in yukata and geta is one of the true charms of Kinosaki Onsen. Each of the seven public bathhouses has its own origin, history and guardian deity. It has long been believed that people who visit all seven bathhouses will gain seven kinds of good fortune. Shinonomesou is located in the central area of Kinosaki Onsen, just seven minutes' walk from Kinosaki Onsen Station, making it convenient to visit the bathhouses and stroll along the willow-fringed Otani-gawa River. Shinonomesou has Japanese-style rooms only. 

yukata basalt caves and park travel kinosaki kimono onsen

After strolling through the streets and visiting an onsen house in the night, I went back to my inn and had a rest before heading to Genbudo - Basalt Caves & Park in the next morning. Located along the Maruyama River between Toyooka and Kinosaki Onsen. Genbudo Park is a national natural monument designated in 1931. Along with the Genbudo Museum (renovated in 2018) it is an educational attraction worth a visit. The basalt caves are part of the San’in Kaigan UNESCO Global Geopark and have also played a significant role in the discovery of reverse magnetization. Access to the park is free and open to the public year-round.

Genbudo, Japanese for Basalt Cave and can also be interpreted as the Black Tortoise Cave, consists of 5 caves made of columnar joints that formed over 1.6 million years ago after the magma from a volcanic eruption cooled, contracted, and formed vertical cracks. These curvaceous columns have a distinctive polygonal shape and a honeycomb pattern. The five caves are each named after four Chinese mythological creatures Genbu (Black Tortoise), Seiryu (Azure Dragon), Byakko (White Tiger) and Suzaku (Phoenix). Two caves are named after the Phoenix but are either North Phoenix or South Phoenix.

The recessed parts of the caves are actually a result of people mining the rocks during the Edo period. The rocks were easily split into pieces and used for various things such as foundations for houses, retaining walls and even as a weight for making pickles. This is why you will come across these basalt rocks just about everywhere during your visit to the area, including in the park’s walkways.

toyooka soba food vegan

After that I had only 2 more spots left before leaving for the next destination again. As previously mentioned the area has a wide landscaoe and a lot of wildlife. The Hyogo Park of the White Stork is one of these important stops to mention, located in Toyooka city.

The Oriental Stork (konotori) became extinct in Japan due to modern farming practices, killing off its food supply of frogs, fish and other wetland animals. The last bird died near Kinosaki in 1971. Konotori no Sato Park (コウノトリの郷公園 , Kōnotori no Sato Kōen) was built to reintroduce the storks to Japan using birds obtained from Russia. The storks themselves are now designated a special protected animal by the government, and have become a symbol of the Tajima region around Kinosaki, where even the local airport is named after them (Konotori Tajima Airport).

I enjoyed my last lunch in Toyooka, which was the Izushi Sara Soba house and HONESTLY – this place is a must. Izushi-soba is served on small plates and you can try to eat them as many as you want. One portion is served with five small plates. They are served with dipping sauce and a choice of spices to add in the sauce. It is said in Izushi that if you are able to finish the plates and lay them up as high as the length of a chopstick, then you have eaten like a grown-up man. Besides the restaurant also offers delicious mochi and I took a box with me for the train ride to Kyoto By The Sea.

I definitely suggest to visit Kinosaki Onsen, I really enjoyed the area and assume it to be very beautiful during Hanami (Sakura season) but guess it´s also charming in winter, as the onsen will be a nice treat after walking in the cold. Kinosaki also offers a beach named Kei Beach, which is a popular spot in summer.