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There are many highly-acclaimed hot spring towns by Osaka and Kyoto, ideal for those wanting to experience Japanese onsen culture. This article includes seven onsen areas accessible via train, Shinkansen, and bus in Kansai, such as the charming Kinosaki Onsen and beachside Shirahama Onsen.
Photo by Pixta
If you want to reinvigorate yourself after sightseeing in Kyoto and Osaka, we have good news. Osaka and Kyoto are surrounded by places where you can enjoy onsens, nature and delicious food. Let’s look at popular onsen towns and hot springs near or in Osaka and Kyoto, ideal for a day trip of relaxation.
Kinosaki Onsen has more than 1,300 years of history, and is located in Toyooka City in Hyogo. The Otani River runs through this onsen town, and its banks are lined with willow trees and old wooden buildings, giving it a very elegant air. We recommend that you spend your time at Kinosaki Onsen in a yukata and geta, and you will often see tourists in yukata walking around town. Explore the town wearing this light kimono, take pictures by the picturesque canal, and enjoy delicious food.
For other activities, be sure to ride the Kinosaki Ropeway, which offers a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains. There are also a number of museums to satisfy any desires for artistic stimulation.
The JR Limited Express is the fastest way to get to Kinosaki. Take the Konotori train from Shin-Osaka Station, bound for Kinosaki Onsen Station (two hours and 50 minutes, around 5,800 yen). The town is ten minutes’ walk from the station. You can also take the highway bus from Osaka Station or Shin-Osaka Station (up to three hours, starting at 3,000 yen). If you’re OK with cramped quarters, it might be good to save money via the bus.
From Kyoto Station, take the JR Limited Express Kinosaki bound for Kinosaki Onsen Station (two hours and 30 minutes, around 4,400 yen). There are almost no buses linking Kyoto with Kinosaki Onsen, so if you want to take a bus to save money, head to Osaka to catch one there.
A suburban hot spring resort in Kansai, Arima Onsen is in Kobe. It is one of Japan’s three oldest hot springs. Its narrow, tangled hill roads, surrounded by natural landscape and mountains, like Mt. Rokko, give the area a lot of charm. We recommend enjoying Arima along with nature: join a hiking tour of Mt. Rokko and end with a soak and drink at Arima Onsen.
There are major inns and hotels in the onsen town, at the foot of the mountains, and among the mountains. You can also use Kin-no-Yu or Gin-no-Yu, outdoor springs, on day trips. Arima Onsen is comprised of springs containing an unusual amount of ingredients, such as carbonic springs, sulfur springs, chlorinated springs, iron springs, and radium springs. They are said to help with various health ailments.
How about enjoying some traditional parlor entertainment at Arima? The area’s geiko perform dances that are appropriate for that season. The geiko cafe Ito has days once or twice a month where you can see them dance for the price of a drink. We recommend this cafe because you can easily check out geiko dancing here.
From the bus terminal at JR Osaka Station, take the highway Arima Express bus and get off at Arima Onsen (one hour, 1,000 yen). The bus stop is in the middle of Arima Onsen.
From Kyoto Station, take the highway Arima Express Kyoto bus and get off at Arima Station (one hour and 15 minutes, 1,400 yen). You can also take the Hankyu or the Keihan bus, which costs the same and takes the same amount of time, so look at the timetables and choose the one that is best for your schedule.
Photo by Pixta
Nagahama is a small city on the coast of Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture boasting a large number of onsen ryokan (hot spring inns). Visitors can stay the night at the lodgings or enter the hot springs and baths for the day. The town is most known for its castle, belonging to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the famous feudal lord, in the 16th century, its gorgeous glass, and picturesque lakeside hot springs. It is a great destination for those looking for a relaxed hot spring experience and encounters with history. Its relatively close proximity to both Osaka and Kyoto also makes it an ideal choice.
Before or after soaking in the hot springs, explore Kurokabe Square, a charming shopping district where you can explore some of Nagahama's specialties. Glassware, in particular, is well-known; there are numerous souvenir shops selling cups, plates, and other decorations, and there are also glass blowing and engraving workshops to try. Stop by the cafes, restaurants, and eateries offering local dishes when you get hungry.
Take the super-rapid express train on the Tokaido/Sanyo line from JR Osaka Station to Nagahama Station. The ride takes around an hour and thirty minutes and costs 1,980 yen.
Take the super-rapid express train on the Tokaido/Sanyo line from JR Osaka Station to Nagahama Station. The ride takes around 38 minutes and costs 1,340 yen.
Pictures courtesy of Shirahama Tourism Association
Located in the Nishimuro area of Wakayama Prefecture, Shirahama Onsen is a highly acclaimed hot spring area. It has a very long history, as it is mentioned in Japan’s oldest songbook and historical texts. Set against the contrast of the emerald sea and white sand beach, and with many lodging establishments nearby, it is a leading Kansai tourist destination. There are carbonic, chlorine and sulfuric springs at Shirahama Onsen, and the water is said to be good for nerve pain, chills, skin diseases, diabetes, and other illnesses. Even today, Shirahama Onsen boasts many directly sourced springs and an abundance of water.
Pictures courtesy of Shirahama Tourism Association
Shirahama Onsen faces the sea, so you can have a soak while you look out at the ocean. The setting sun over the sea is beautiful and spiritually soothing. Nanki-Shirahama has been long-known for its picturesque scenery, including white sandy beaches and precipitous cliffs.
From JR Shin-Osaka Station, take the JR Limited Express Kuroshio train bound for Shingu, and get off at Shirahama Station (around two hours and 15 minutes, 5,170 yen). Another convention option is the Onsen Bus, which goes directly to Shirahama Onsen (two hours and 30 minutes, 2,600 yen) from JR Osaka Station.
The highway bus is best when coming from Kyoto! Take the Meiko bus from Kyoto Station, which stops at every location in Shirahama, and get off at your destination (four hours, 3,500 yen). There are very few buses (only two a day), so be careful. Alternatively, those in Kyoto can travel to Shin-Osaka and take the Kuroshio from there.
Wakura Onsen is located in Nanao in Ishikawa. It is said to have a history of more than 1,200 years and is a leading high-class onsen town. In addition to the hot springs, you can see the famous Buddhist temples around the town, enjoy fresh fish caught from Nanao Harbor and the neighboring Tomiyama Harbor, and other things that let you experience the true charm of touring Japan. Wakura Onsen’s water has sodium and calcium and is said to be good for rheumatism and nerve pain. Wakura Onsen faces the sea, and its water has a characteristic high salt content that is characteristic of an ocean onsen.
Picture Wakura Onsen - A Top Class 1200-Year-Old Hot Spring Resort
Wakura Onsen has lots of delicious food. At Nanao Harbor and Tomiyama Harbor, yellowtail, Kano crab, rockfish, angler and other kinds of seafood can be caught in front of your eyes. Wakura Onsen is a trove of deliciousness, including rice, vegetables, local sake, Noto beef and more. That’s why Wakura Onsen has plenty of restaurants. Enjoy the taste of Noto to your heart’s content.
From Osaka Station, take the JR Limited Express Thunderbird bound for Wakura Onsen, and get off at Wakura Onsen Station (four hours, 9,360 yen).
From Kyoto Station, take the JR Limited Express Thunderbird bound for Wakura Onsen, and get off at Wakura Onsen Station (three hours and 30 minutes, 8,590 yen).
Photo by Pixta
Dorogawa Onsen is nestled in the Omine Mountains of eastern Nara Prefecture. Historically used for religious training, the area is thought to have a relaxing and spiritual atmosphere. The region also receives natural hot springs flow, making it a great spot to experience onsen culture in western Japan. There are numerous inns with onsen and places to stop in for a quick soak after hiking and sightseeing at the temples and natural sights in the area.
You must make a few transfers to get to Dorogawa Onsen from Osaka. Start at JR Osaka Station and take the Osaka Loop Line to Tennoji Station. From Tennoji Station, transfer to the Kintetsu Minami Osaka line headed for Yoshino. The rapid service train will take one hour to get to Shimo Ichiguchi Station. From Shimo Ichiguchi Station, take the bus to Dorogawa Onsen (around 78 minutes). Please note the bus only runs a few times a day. The total cost of the trip is around 2,000 yen (one-way).
To get to Dorogawa Onsen from Kyoto, ride the rapid service train bound for Yoshino from Kintetsu Kyoto Station on the rapid service train. After around one hour and thirty minutes, get off at Shimo Ichiguchi Station.
We’ve introduced onsen resorts outside of Kyoto and Osaka, but here we’ll introduce an unusual onsen in Osaka: Kutsurogi-no-Sato Yuraku in Suminoe, which uses natural spring waters sourced from within the grounds. You should try the Ahiru Yokocho Matsuri bath, a large vinyl tub with many yellow duck toys floating in it. In Japan, it’s typical for children to play with toys in the tub.
Enjoy playing with them as though you’ve become a Japanese child. The water quality is said to be good for nerve pain, muscle pain, joint pain, stiff shoulders, muscle fatigue and more. Also, because there is a lot of water in the hot spring, freshwater is constantly flowing into the tub. Enjoy natural gushing springs in the outdoor bath.
From Osaka Station, walk to Nishi-Umeda Station (up to 10 minutes) and take the Yotsubashi Line for Suminoe-Koen. Get off at Kitakagaya Station (20 minutes, 280 yen).
From Kyoto Station, take the JR Kyoto Line Rapid Express bound for Banshu-Ako and get off at Osaka Station, then follow the above instructions.
Stretch your legs and head out a short distance from Osaka and Kyoto to head to wonderful onsen resorts. If you’re coming all the way to Japan, why not enjoy Japanese bath culture?