A Comprehensive Guide to Kinosaki Onsen: Japan’s Renowned Hot Spring Town


Kinosaki Onsen is a charming hot spring town located in the northern part of Hyogo Prefecture, Japan. Known for its seven public hot springs, traditional ryokans (Japanese inns), and the picturesque willow-lined canal, Kinosaki Onsen offers a quintessential Japanese onsen experience that attracts both local and international visitors.

Getting to Kinosaki Onsen

1.Train Travel

Kinosaki Onsen is easily accessible by train from major cities in Japan. From Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe, the Limited Express Kounotori operated by JR West provides direct access to Kinosaki Onsen. The journey takes approximately 2.5 hours from Osaka, 2 hours 30 minutes from Kyoto, and 2 hours from Kobe. From Himeji, you can take the Limited Express Hamakaze, which takes around 2 hours. If you’re coming from Tokyo, you can take the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Himeji and transfer to the Limited Express Hamakaze.

For international visitors, I highly recommend purchasing the Kansai Wide Area JR Pass. This pass offers unlimited travel on JR lines (including both reserved and non-reserved seats on the Shinkansen) in the Kansai region for five days. Plus, if you plan to explore Kinosaki Onsen and its surrounding areas extensively, consider getting the KINOSAKI MUST-VISITS 3 Days PASS. This pass offers unlimited rides on the Zentan Bus in the Kinosaki Onsen area, the City Loop Bus in Toyooka, and the stork bus in the Izushi area. You can purchase these two passes as a package on Klook, which offers a 1000 JPY discount compared to buying them separately.

2. Bus Travel

If you prefer bus travel, there are several services that operate to and from Kinosaki Onsen. The Zentan Bus operates between Kinosaki Onsen and Kyoto, while the North Kansai Express Bus connects Kinosaki Onsen with Osaka. These buses are equipped with comfortable seating and offer a convenient way to enjoy the scenic beauty of the Japanese countryside.

3. Car Hire

For those who prefer the flexibility and convenience of driving, car hire is an excellent option. You can rent a car from various companies and enjoy a leisurely drive to Kinosaki Onsen. This option allows you to explore at your own pace and make spontaneous stops along the way. For car hire services, check out Rentalcars. Remember to familiarize yourself with the driving rules in Japan before hitting the road.

Where to Stay: Top Ryokans in Kinosaki Onsen

Staying at a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn, is an integral part of the Kinosaki Onsen experience. Most ryokans in Kinosaki Onsen offer half-board plans, which include both breakfast and dinner. This is particularly convenient as many restaurants in this small onsen town do not serve dinner late. Moreover, the meals at ryokans, especially the winter meals, often feature local specialties such as Matsuba crab, providing a gourmet experience that you don’t want to miss.

It’s important to note that while some ryokans offer rooms with private open-air baths, these baths are filled with hot water, not natural hot spring water. This is due to a local regulation in Kinosaki Onsen that prohibits ryokans from supplying natural hot spring water to the baths in guest rooms. However, many ryokans do provide private onsen facilities, where you can enjoy a soak in natural hot spring water in a more secluded setting.

Here are some of the top ryokans in Kinosaki Onsen:

Budget Ryokan

1. Mikuniya

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Mikuniya is a ryokan that offers a variety of rooms, including Japanese-style rooms and rooms with a private open-air bath. The ryokan also has a large communal bath and a private family bath. The ryokan’s meals, featuring seasonal ingredients and local seafood, are served in your room.

2. Sensui

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Ryokan Sensui is a ryokan that offers a variety of rooms, including Japanese-style rooms and rooms with a private open-air bath. The ryokan also has a large communal bath and a private family bath. The ryokan’s meals, featuring seasonal ingredients and local seafood, are served in your room.

3. Kawaguchiya Riverside Hotel

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Located near the Otani River, this ryokan offers a comfortable stay with a beautiful view of the river. It has both Japanese and Western-style rooms, and the onsen facilities include a large public bath and an open-air bath. The ryokan also provides yukata and geta for guests to wear while strolling around the town.

Mid-range Ryokan

4. Tajimaya

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Tajimaya is a ryokan known for its crab dishes, served during the winter season. The ryokan offers Japanese-style rooms, some of which come with a private open-air bath. There are also large communal baths and private family baths. The ryokan’s meals, featuring seasonal ingredients and local seafood, are served in your room.

5. Tenbouen

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Tenbouen is a mid-range ryokan that caters especially to women. It offers a private rock sauna, a gourmet dining experience, and a private open-air bath (for a fee). The ryokan has 14 Japanese-style rooms, all equipped with modern amenities. Dinner is served in the room, and the ryokan features a hot spring and a family bath.

Luxury Ryokan

6. Nishimuraya Honkan

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Nishimuraya Honkan is a luxury ryokan with a history of over 150 years. It offers a variety of rooms, including Japanese-style rooms and rooms with a private open-air bath. The ryokan also has a large communal bath and two private baths that guests can use for free. The ryokan’s meals, served in your room, feature seasonal ingredients and local specialties. Note that the ryokan does not accept children under the age of 7.

7. Sennen no Yu Gonzaemon

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Sennen no Yu Gonzaemon is a traditional ryokan located in the heart of Kinosaki Onsen. The ryokan offers a variety of amenities, including room service, baggage storage, and a gift shop. The rooms are equipped with a flat-screen TV, air conditioning, and a refrigerator, providing a comfortable and convenient stay. The ryokan also features a hot spring bath for guests to enjoy.

What to Do in Kinosaki Onsen

Kinosaki Onsen is not just about hot springs. The town also offers a variety of attractions and activities that you can enjoy.

Strolling the Town in Yukata

One of the unique experiences in Kinosaki Onsen is strolling around the town in a yukata (a casual summer kimono). Many ryokans provide yukatas for their guests, and you can see many visitors and locals alike walking around in yukatas, especially in the evening.

Visiting the Seven Public Hot Springs

Kinosaki Onsen is known for its seven public hot springs, each with its own unique characteristics. The seven hot springs are: Sato no Yu, Jizo Yu, Yanagi Yu, Ichino Yu, Gosho no Yu, Mandara Yu, and Kono Yu. You can visit all seven hot springs with a day pass, which can be purchased at any of the hot springs or at the tourist information center. If you’re staying at a ryokan in Kinosaki Onsen, they often provide a day pass for the seven hot springs as part of your stay.

Kinosaki Ropeway and Onsenji Temple

For a stunning view of Kinosaki Onsen and the surrounding area, take the Kinosaki Ropeway to the top of Mount Daishi. At the top of the mountain, you’ll find Onsenji Temple, a historic temple that is said to have been founded over 1,300 years ago. The temple is also home to a statue of the Buddhist deity of mercy, which is only revealed to the public every 33 years.
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Where to Eat in Kinosaki Onsen

In addition to the delicious meals served at the ryokans, there are also many restaurants, cafes, and sweet shops in Kinosaki Onsen where you can enjoy local specialties. Here are some of my recommendations:

1. Kinosaki Coffee Miharashi Terrace Cafe

For coffee lovers, Kinosaki Coffee Miharashi Terrace Cafe is a must-visit. The cafe offers a variety of coffee drinks made from beans roasted in-house. The cafe also has a terrace that offers stunning views of Kinosaki Onsen.

2. Okesho Fish Market & Restaurant

If you’re a seafood lover, don’t miss Okesho Fish Market & Restaurant. The restaurant offers a variety of seafood dishes, including sushi, sashimi, and grilled fish.

3. Soft Kobo

For a sweet treat, head to Soft Kobo. The shop specializes in soft serve ice cream made from locally sourced milk.

4. Sakamotoya Liquor Store

For sake lovers, Sakamotoya Liquor Store is a must-visit. The store offers a wide selection of local sake, including some that are brewed in Kinosaki Onsen.

5. Amachaya

Amachaya is a café and dining spot conveniently located just opposite the train station. It’s loved for its super-sized shrimp fry that exceeds 20cm. Alongside this, they serve a variety of dishes including curry rice, Tajima beef, rice bowls, and soba. For dessert, try their shaved ice and enjoy their delicious coffee. You can even take your meal to go and enjoy it back at your ryokan or on the train ride home.

6. Minatoya

For street food, head to Minatoya. The shop is famous for its onsen tamago (hot spring eggs), which are eggs slow-cooked in hot spring water.

Recommended Itineraries

Planning your trip to Kinosaki Onsen can be overwhelming with so many things to do and see. To help you make the most of your visit, here are some recommended itineraries:

One-Day Itinerary

If you only have one day in Kinosaki Onsen, start your day by exploring the town in a yukata. Visit the seven public hot springs and enjoy a relaxing soak. For lunch, try the local specialty, Tajima beef, at one of the restaurants in town. In the afternoon, take the Kinosaki Ropeway to the top of Mount Daishi and visit Onsenji Temple. In the evening, stroll around the town and enjoy the beautiful night view.

Two-Day Itinerary

If you have two days in Kinosaki Onsen, you can take a more leisurely pace. On the first day, follow the one-day itinerary. On the second day, explore the surrounding area. You can visit the Genbudo Park, which is known for its unique rock formations, or the Kinosaki Marine World, which is a popular aquarium.

Three-Day Itinerary

If you have three days in Kinosaki Onsen, you can explore the town and its surrounding area more thoroughly. On the first and second days, follow the two-day itinerary. On the third day, take a day trip to Izushi, a castle town that is known for its soba noodles, or to Takeno Beach, which is considered one of the best beaches in Japan.


Kinosaki Onsen is a charming hot spring town that offers a unique and authentic Japanese experience. Whether you’re a fan of hot springs, a food lover, or a nature lover, Kinosaki Onsen has something for everyone. So why wait? Start planning your trip to Kinosaki Onsen now!

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