Located in the northern coastal region of the Hyogo Prefecture is Kinosaki Onsen (城崎溫泉), a relatively popular onsen town with direct train connections to Osaka, Kyoto which takes about 3 hours. Hence, the onsen town is highly recommended if you are basing your travels around the Kansai region and wishes to spend a night in a Japanese hot spring town. The JR Kansai West WIDE Pass as well as Japan Rail Pass cover the trips from Osaka and Kyoto to Kinosaki Onsen.
Melon Bun and Coffee Milk on the train to Kinosaki Onsen.
We used our JR Kansai West WIDE Pass to take a limited express train from Kobe to Kinosaki Onsen. The train ride took about three hours and the landscape turned from a muted winter landscape into a snow-covered one as the train pulls into Kinosaki Onsen. It was snowing and raining at the same time when we arrived luckily there was a shared shuttle bus to fetch us to our lodging.
One unique trait about Kinosaki Onsen is its seven hot springs with different qualities and atmosphere which are opened to guests staying at the ryokans in Kinosaki Onsen. If you stay in a ryokan in Kinosaki Onsen, you will receive a pass which allows you to visit all seven hot springs and go onsen-hopping.
Find out more about their hotsprings here.
On the day of the Winter Solstice, Kinosaki Onsen even have yuzu hot spring baths. It is believed that bathing in a yuzu bath will keep the cold away.
EAT | OKESYO | おけしょう鮮魚の海中苑
Facing the Sea of Japan, the area around Kinosaki Onsen is known for its seafood and more importantly, for its crabs. The season for crabs begins around November and you could find many restaurants and the ryokans offering a crab feast.
We stopped by Okesyo, a seafood restaurant near the station for lunch. The first floor of the restaurant is a seafood market where you can find different kinds of crabs on offer such as Matsuba and Seko crabs as well as different kinds of chinmi including Kani Miso. The restaurant would prepare any seafood you purchase from the market downstairs.
I had a Uni Kani Don (ウニ・かに丼| 3780 Yen) which is only available from October to May.
132 Kinosakicho Yushima, Toyooka,
Hyogo Prefecture 669-6101, Japan
STAY | YADO KIRAKU |旅館 喜楽
My friend and I stayed at Yado Kiraku, a ryokan-style hotel located in the central area of Kinosaki Onsen. Our room was a Japanese-style room with a private restroom.
Upon arrival at the hotel, the staff would take note of what time we would like to have our dinner and breakfast for the next day as well as the timing to prepare the futons to sleep. If you are unsure of how to wear the yukata and geta (Japanese slippers) provided by the hotel, the staff will gladly guide you on how to do so as well.
Dinner was served in the room and there are a few options which you could pick while making your booking. As Kinosaki Onsen is also located in Hyogo Prefecture, known for its wagyu, you could opt for Tajima beef option as well. However, since it is the crab season, we picked the crab hotpot for dinner.
They are really into crabs and tajima beef in Kinosaki Onsen.
The dinner was a lavish affair with a generous serving of crabs as well as side dishes including sashimi and matcha tofu. The soup from the hot pot is used to make kani zosui, Japanese-style crab porridge towards the end of the meal. Lastly, we ended the dinner with a yuzu jelly.
Rice, spring onions and seaweed are added to the mix towards the end of the meal to make kani zosui (crab porridge)
Preparation of the futon for turning in.
Breakfast was just as sumptuous, there was yoghurt, salads with two kinds of dressing, chawanmushi, pickles, chinmi, fresh ika sashimi, tofu in soy broth and grilled ayu (sweet fish).
Tamago-yaki and assorted side dishes. The black stuff is wakame while between the egg and seaweed is probably pickled jellyfish or ika with miso paste.
Tofu in soy broth.
EXPLORE | KINOSAKI ONSEN
We spent the last few hours in Kinosaki Onsen to explore a bit. The hotel provides snow boots for the guests which is great as it was snowing rather heavily in the morning. We stopped by the Kinosaki Onsenji before making our way back.
SNACK | KINOSAKI SWEETS & GELATO CHAYA | 城崎ジェラートカフェchaya
On the way back, because it was so cold outside, we seek refuge in a little cafe located just outside the temple. The cafe serves one of my favourite Japanese dessert : Zensai or Oshiruko which was served warm and topped with a chewy, lightly grilled rice cake as well as kuri.
They also sold bunches of eggs to be cooked in the onsen water outside. A special kind of cutter can be used to slice the top of the egg off.
After which, we went back to the hotel to get our luggage before heading to the station to board a train bound for Kyoto.
Lunch was a Tajima Beef Bun that I got on the way to the station. There were also Tajima obento being sold at the entrance of the train station if you prefer something more filling.