Kinosaki Onsen is known for its seven famous hot springs and for its tradition of wearing yukata (casual kimono) on the street. Most guests book a night or two in a hotel and explore the different onsens. It’s a very relaxing and unique experience. However, there are some hidden secrets in this village that will make your stay even more interesting.
Everywhere in Kinosaki you will find stork figures. It is not a coincidence. Legend has it that these birds (symbol of longevity and good luck) would go to Kinosaki’s swamps to heal their wounds. Knowing this, many people started bathing in these waters as well. It was not too long before bath houses opened. Nowadays, Kinosaki is one of the top places for an onsen experience.
As soon as you arrive to the train station you will find several stork figures. Notice as well the big shoe rack just in front of the station. You can observe more than fifty pairs of geta (traditional wooden sandal with an elevated base). They all represent the different hotels and bathhouses in Kinosaki.
Whenever you feel like eating there are two musts in this onsen village. The first is seafood. Most of the places you will find along the main street will offer you delicious food. However, if you want to try a traditional and local dish, make sure you eat some crab. Restaurants serve it on top of rice, as a soup, or as tempura. For dessert, head to Maruyamakaryo café. This is the second must of Kinosaki. Some people say that it’s the best pudding they’ve ever had. I tried one and yes, it’s the best one I’ve had.
If you need to rest a bit from the hot springs, go to Hiyoriyama. It’s only a ten minute bus ride. At Kinosaki’s information center you can buy a round trip pass for ¥500 (if you buy directly in the bus will cost you ¥120 more). Just remember to take your passport with you; you need to show it to buy the round trip ticket. Wait for the bus in front of train station.
Get down at the last station and you will be at Kinosaki Marine World. Head towards the viewpoint besides the aquarium and you will find in the middle of the sea a tiny island with five small shrines. It is said that this island represents the palace of Japanese legend.
The story is about Urashima Taro, a fisherman who saves Otohime, a turtle and daughter of Ryujin, Emperor of the Sea. In return for saving her life, Otohime invites him to her underworld palace. Urashima spends three days there before asking to return back home. Before leaving, the turtle gives him a box that will protect him from any harm, but asks the fisherman to never open it. However, as soon as he is back at seashore, he decides to open the box. A cloud of smoke bursts and his beard suddenly grows white and his back completely bents. He then hears a voice reminding him he should have never opened the box. Inside of it, there was his old age.
A last but interesting fact about Kinosaki village is that each of the seven famous hot springs have a specific purpose. For example, the waters of Jizou-yu bring security to the family, the ones of Ichino-yu are for success in school and safety while travelling, and those of Mandara-yu are good for business and agriculture.