Kinosaki is a charming hot spring resort town on the Japan Sea coast with 1400 years of history. The town is incredibly picturesque, with beautifully preserved traditional architecture and a river lined with willows and cherry trees that runs through its center. One of the most famous spa resorts in Japan, Kinosaki is certainly the best one within easy reach of Kyoto. If you take the right train, you can get there from Kyoto in just 2.5 hours. In this article we will introduce Kinosaki’s key activities, and tell you the best way to get there from Kyoto Station.
Things to do in Kinosaki
Eat Crab or Tajima Beef
If you travel to Kinosaki between November and March you can enjoy snow crabs fresh from the sea. Actually, Kinosaki is so famous for its crab that it is pretty hard to avoid. You’ll see crab décor everywhere, from the moment you step outside Kinosaki Onsen Station.
There are crabs on sale in the streetside fishmongers, crab flavored snacks on sale in the souvenir shops, and if you have dinner at your hotel, crab is probably on the menu. And it is cooked in so many ways too: boiled, grilled, in a hot pot, or as sashimi. You’ll never forget the white fluffy crab meat of Kinosaki!
However, if you don’t visit Kinosaki during the crab season, don’t worry, as there is still plenty of fine food to eat. Tajima beef, is a local variety of black Wagyu beef, highly prized for its rich taste and marbled texture. If you like a good steak, this is the place to get it!
Take a Stroll
Many hotels in Kinosaki supply their guests with a light cotton kimono called a yukata. These days people don’t usually wear a yukata outdoors, unless they are attending a festival or some other special occasion. However, at Kinosaki it is common for hotel guests to change into their yukata, pull on some geta style wooden sandals and take a nostalgic stroll through the streets. The old townscape is so well preserved that, together with so many people wearing traditional Japanese clothes, it really does feel like stepping back in time. Around the town you can visit different public bathhouses, sample the many shops, cafes and restaurants, and also try some of the street-side entertainment in the old fashioned game arcades.
Ride the Cable Car to Mount Daishi
Take the cable car up to the top of Mount Daishi. Halfway up there is a temple called Onsen-ji, which literally means Hot Spring Temple! At the very top there is an observatory with fantastic views over Kinosaki, the surrounding mountains, and the Japan Sea beyond.
Bathe at an Onsen
After a hard day’s sightseeing, nothing is more relaxing or rejuvenating than soaking your body in hot spring bath. If you visit Kinosaki, you will be spoilt for choice for bathing locations! The town has seven famous public bathhouses and it is common for visitors to sample each in turn. Of course every hotel in Kinosaki has its own hot spring bath for you to enjoy. However, it would be a shame to miss out on the bath house tour. Many hotels in Kinosaki offer a free pass with unlimited access to these hot springs, so don’t miss out on this unique bathing opportunity!
How to get to Kinosaki
The easiest way to get to Kinosaki from Kyoto is to take the “Kinosaki” Limited Express for a one-way fare of 4320 yen. This train runs a direct services between Kyoto Station and Kinosaki Onsen Station three times a day. There are three return journeys too. Here is the timetable:
From Kyoto Station:
From Kinosaki Onsen Station:
If these times don’t suit you, then that is not a problem. At other times you can simply take a Limited Express from Kyoto Station as far as Fukuchiyama Station, and there transfer to a train for Kinosaki Onsen Station. It will take a little bit longer, but the fare is the same. To find the best train for your schedule, use the JR West Timetable and Fare Finder. You can input the time you want to go and select the type of train (Limited Express) and the system will automatically find the best train for you. It is also possible to use local trains from Fukuchiyama Station instead of Limited Express trains. This way you will pay a slightly cheaper fare (3560 yen), but this will add at least another 30 minutes to your journey time.
Article and original photos by Michael Lambe. All rights reserved.