Kinosaki Onsen 城崎温泉 – Updated, 2012.

Kinosaki Onsen (城崎温泉) is located in the Southern third of Japan’s main island, Honshu, on the western, Sea of Japan, side.  Onsen means “hot springs” and the small, coastal town of Kinosaki is full of them.  I’ve been to Kinosaki more times than I can count because it’s a Hyogo Prefecture town and I live in Hyogo years ago.  It’s been over ten years since my last visit to Kinosaki, though, having traveled and stayed there with someone I used to know back in early October 2011.  I introduced her to Kinosaki.  If, after learning about Kinosaki below, you want to read a harrowing tale of our first night in town, I invite you to read this original and true tale:  “K i n o s a k i.”

Willows along the Otani-gawa (Otani River) in central Kinosaki. October 2001.

The ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) we stayed in Mikuniya (see my own photos below), though, as mentioned, my memories of Kinosaki predate that experience by more than ten years.

I plan to supplement this post — with history, reminiscences, information — here and there.  For now, though, I just wanted to post some Kinosaki photos from 2001, and share a Kinosaki story from back in late 1990.  First, though, two maps to orient you to Kinosaki Onsen, first a national map, then a close-in view of Japan’s Kansai Region, where you can see Kinosaki Onsen in the upper left:

More photos from Kinosaki:


We hiked up this mountain, turned around and saw this view of Kinosaki. Oct 2001.

We hiked up this mountain, turned around and saw this view of Kinosaki. Oct 2001.

Kinosaki Onsen. Morning Walk. October 2001.

Bathing Procedure
The public hot springs all have separate bathing sections for males and females. One can change out of their clothes and leave their possessions and drying towel in the dressing room lockers. Usually no bathing suits are worn in the bath. One should first cleanse and rinse oneself off at the showers or faucet, away from the bath itself. Be careful to have rinsed away all soap and shampoo before entering the hot spring bath. Enjoy!

Note:  a pretty good (and oh-so-true-and-autobiographical) communal bath-and-what-happened-afterwards scene in China in this story, Delegation.


Students Sketching on Bridge over the Otani. October 2001.


Stamp from Kinosaki Station, October 2001. Many train stations have their own memento stamps for travelers and tourists to use.


Different view, looking down on Kinosaki while hiking up the mountain. October 2001..

Kinosaki Outskirts. October 2001.


Students on their way to school. Kinosaki. October 2001.


Mirror, Mirror… Yes, that’s a reflection. Kinosaki. October 2001.


Train noodles through Kinosaki. October 2001.


Mikuniya ryokan (traditional inn). October 2001.


Our first night in Kinosaki we had dinner in our room.  Shabu-shabu (しゃぶしゃぶ), a favorite .  .  .

Shabu-shabu at Mikuniya. October 2001.


Family out for a stroll. Kinosaki Onsen. October 2001.

.         .         .

A Short, True Kinosaki Story

– Originally told in this post on Sake –

There’s a word in Japanese, YukiMiZake (雪見酒), made by the characters for Snow, See or View, and Sake.  It means to sit and sip (hot) sake while watching the snow fall.  Once, on an ice-cold, moonless evening in December 1990, when I was living in rural Hyogo Prefecture a couple of friends and their wives bundled me into one of their cars and we all drove up to Kinosaki, the onsen, or hot spring, town up on the Sea of Japan.  It was just a little over an hour’s drive from the little town where we lived.  One of my friends was very well-to-do.  He and his wife owned a vacation home on the sea.  When we arrived at this beautiful log home the first thing we did was build a little fire in the pot-bellied stove (imported from Vermont) in the center of the living room, while the women unpacked groceries and began preparing dinner.  They told us, the three guys, to go ahead and get in the onsen while they cooked.  Along with my two friends, I did as I was told.  The onsen was just out back, connected to the house.  The house itself was built on a bluff above and facing away from the sea, so that the back of the house overlooked the churning waves below.  The onsen, a large hot tub fashioned into the rocks and boulders behind the house was on the receiving end of pipes sunk deep, bringing steaming water up into it from below the earth.  It seemed to be clinging to a ledge above the surf, who knew how far below.  As it was night I couldn’t see out into or down towards the water.  The lights from just inside the back alcove lit the onsen area.  We stripped to our natural selves, and got in the scalding hot water, feeling the energizing, and somehow relaxing contrast, between the steaming water and the frigid air.  A few moments later one of the wives brought out a tray on which was a well-warmed tokkuri (ceramic flask) and three sake cups.  Only a moment after sake pours were exchanged and toasts were made (“Kampai!”  乾杯!  –  To the bottom of the cup!), and the first sips of delicious atsukan (hot sake) were taken, we each sat back against our respective sections of onsen, sighed with contentment and, then, watched the snow begin to fall.

.         .         .

Route 11 runs south between Kinosaki and Takeno.  Small villages and stunning views in between . . .


One of many scenes off Route 11 between Kinosaki & Takeno. Spring 1991.


Another scene off Route 11 between Kinosaki & Takeno. Spring 1991.

Nearby, a little over 10 years later . . .

Nearby, just off Route 11 between Kinosaki & Takeno. October 2001.

.           .           .

  1. Ahhh, Kinosaki.. I remember it well, such a beautiful place. And a great view at sea.. A wild one with a lot of wind and clashing waves. But calming to look at.

    I’ve see the onsen and it’s recognizable area, but I wish I’d actually gone to the onsen…

      • letsjapan
      • April 8th, 2011


      Thanks for stopping by. At least a couple more photos to come. I’m heartbroken in that so very many that I had have been lost or destroyed over the course of many moves over the past 10-20 years — pre-digital photos that I failed to keep adequate track of.

      But I have a few left and my memories. Am working on a Kinosaki story, too, a true tale, actually. Stay tuned. This post is going to expand over the coming days!


    • Lois
    • April 9th, 2011

    annoh — was I there? In Kinosaki? i was somewhere… with you and some teachers. Wasn’t I?

    Getting old is hard, desu ne!

      • letsjapan
      • April 9th, 2011

      I will send you, by email, a photo of you amid those rocks in the very last pic! I have a great one of you and Mark — somewhere — standing by a rack of dried (drying) squid in Kinosaki (our first trip there. yes, with several people I think). Remember all the squid boats with those huge, powerful lamps arrayed from stem to stern, seeing them at night and in the morning coming in just before sun up? Did you ever see that?


    • letsjapan
    • April 9th, 2011

    Email just sent, Lois!


  2. Beautiful place and does remind me a lot of Kurashiki in Okayama.

    Japan Australia

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