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Arima Onsen Day Trip: Japan's Oldest Hot Spring Town is Just Like Stepping Into an Anime

Arima Onsen Day Trip: Japan's Oldest Hot Spring Town is Just Like Stepping Into an Anime

Date published: 2 December 2019
Last updated: 18 December 2020

Arima Onsen is one of Japan’s Three Ancient Hot Springs and is mentioned in The Pillow Book as one of the Three Famous Springs of that time.

Zuihoji Park, praised by Taiko Hideyoshi who said, "I never tire of the view," embodies the traditional Japanese atmosphere especially when the leaves turn red in the fall.

This is a place we heartily recommend for a pleasant day-trip to a famous hot spring area where you can enjoy the famous Kin-no-Yu and Gin-no-Yu onsen as well as some famous hot spring products.

Getting to Arima Onsen: Access

Getting to Arima Onsen from Kobe is very straightforward. From Shinkaichi Station, take the Kobekosoku-Nanboku Line to Arimaguchi Station, then transfer to the Kobe Dentetsu-Arima Line to the final stop, Arima Onsen Station. The trip will take around 45 minutes.

Arima Onsen's autumn leaves extend throughout Zuihoji Park

Zuihoji Park is said to be one of the best places in the Kansai region to see the colorful autumn leaves. It is only about a 15-minute walk from the center of Arima Onsen. Previously this was the site of the Zuihoji Temple, but after it was abandoned in 1873, it was made into a public park.

▲From early to mid-November the leaves turn a beautiful color

There are walking paths inside the park and when the leaves are at their best, the whole park is dyed in bright reds. The park is not that large so that even at a leisurely pace you can walk around it in about 30 minutes, but you may find yourself stopping often to enjoy the colorful leaves above you.

▲ The paths are very easy to walk.

The views are absolutely gorgeous. The bright reds and oranges make a beautiful mosaic creating a kaleidoscope effect as you walk beneath them. It is easy to see why so many people come from other prefectures just to enjoy the autumn leaves.

▲ This is the stone Go board that is said to have been loved by Hideyoshi

Taiko Hideyoshi is said to have enjoyed playing go on this stone board so much under the beautiful autumn leaves that he spent the whole day there admiring them and subsequently this was called the Higurashi [dawn to dusk] Garden. In addition, there are many other attractions besides the autumn leaves, such as the 13-tiered stone pagoda and the main gate of the Fushimi Momoyama Castle relocated from Kyoto.

▲You can enjoy a light meal or tea at the Momiji Tea House

There are no shops or vending machines in the park, but the Momiji Tea House is open only during late October to late November when the autumn leaves are at their best, making it a popular spot with tourists. The bright red bankasa [coarse oilpaper umbrella] add to the mood.

▲Kuromitsu Dango [rice cake dumplings with brown sugar syrup] (2 sticks) 400 yen including tax. *Price may be subject to change.

In addition to sweets typical of a tea house, such as dango, zenzai, and amazake [sweet sake], you can also get an authentic pizza cooked in a stone oven and also wine.

Explore history at Taiko-no-Yu while enjoying the Kin-no-Yu and Gin-no-Yu hot springs

Explore history at Taiko-no-Yu while enjoying the Kin-no-Yu and Gin-no-Yu hot springs
▲ Taiko-no-Yu is a hot spring facility offering many types of baths that can be enjoyed on a day trip.

Arima Onsen's Taiko-no-Yu had a grand opening in 2005. Recently refurbished in April 2019, this large-scale spa which can accommodate day-trip visitors is the largest in Arima Onsen having been visited by more than three and a half million people.

In addition to the Kin-no-Yu and Gin-no-Yu baths with their two different types of mineral waters, the main attraction is in being able at the same time to enjoy the artificially reproduced Arima Carbonated Spring. This is a historical facility offering 26 types of baths and bedrock baths as well as a relaxation room, food court, and gift shops.

▲The interior takes you back in time to the Azuchi-Momoyama period

The interior is designed to show how Arima looked during the Azuchi-Momoyama Period and over the front desk is a hip gable roof. Room wear for adults is offered in four different colors from which you are free to choose.

▲The open-air baths, which are for men and women on alternating months, have hot spring water flowing directly from the source as does the Kin-no-Yu onsen.

One of the attractions of the Arima Onsen is the different mineral quality in the Kin-no-Yu and Gin-no-Yu baths. Kin-no-Yu is a reddish-brown ferruginous saline spring that has a higher salinity than seawater and is reputed to make the skin smoother and warm the body to the core. In addition to the open-air bath with hot spring water flowing directly from the source, a recreation of the stone bath that was in the palace of Hideyoshi, there is a large bath that combines the waters of both the Kin-no-Yu and Gin-no-Yu bath.

▲ In the Gin-no-Yu open-air bath there is an object shaped like a gourd which was Taiko Hideyoshi's battle standard

Gin-no-Yu onsen is colorless and transparent and is a radon spring that is considered to be effective in promoting blood circulation. It is also a carbon dioxide spring (artificially carbonated) that is effervescent. In addition to the open-air baths, there is also a large bath, bedrock bath, and foot bath using the Gin-no-Yu spring water.

▲ A steam bath modeled after the golden tea room.

The Golden Steam Bath is designed after the golden tea room Taiko Hideyoshi had made, and the interior is also in gold. At least once try this luxurious steam bath where you can experience all the benefits of the mineral qualities found in the Kin-no-Yu and Gin-no-Yu bath.

▲ There are 66 reclining chairs in the relaxation room

This is a good place to take a rest after taking a bath. In addition to these reclining chairs, there is also a tatami mat space where you can relax.

▲ The food court

The food court has 331 seats. This is a fun space with a variety of menus, such as set meals, bowl dishes, and noodles, and occasionally there are also live music performances. In autumn a special menu using octopus and sobameshi [soba and rice cooked together along with meat and vegetables], local delicacies of Hyogo, is served in a dish called Takoiri Omu Sobameshi, which is an omelet made with those two ingredients (850 yen excluding tax).

▲ Be sure to see the Autumn Leaves Terraced Field

While walking outside you can think about Kuroda Kanbei, a military commander with links to Arima. The walking path is patterned after the one in the Kurpark in Germany, a country noted for its therapeutic spas, and while strolling along it you can think about how you can improve your health while enjoying this area that transformed a chief vassal of a feudal lord into the country's most powerful warlord.

  • Arima Onsen Taiko-no-Yu
    有馬温泉 太閤の湯
    • Address 292-2 Ikenoshiri, Arima-cho, Kita-ku, Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture
    • Phone Number 078-904-2291
    • Open: 10:00 a.m. ~ 11:00 p.m. (Last admission 10:00 p.m.)
      Closed: unscheduled
      Admission: Adults (jr. high school age and older) 2,400 yen, children (elementary school age) 1,200 yen, infants (3 or older) 400 yen
      *Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, January 1 ~ 3, April 29 ~ May 5, August 13 ~ 15 Adults (jr. high school age and older) 2,600 yen, children (elementary school age) 1,300 yen, infants (3 or older) 500 yen / all prices excluding tax (extra bathing charge of 75 yen, though infants and children on weekdays are exempted)

Stroll through Arima Onsen and see the different hot spring sources

Stroll through Arima Onsen and see the different hot spring sources
▲ Steam vapors rising up from Tenjin Sengen

There are seven hot spring sources scattered throughout Arima Onsen and visiting them while walking around the area is an enjoyable way to pass the time. Tenjin Sengen is representative of the hot spring sources in Arima and it is a Kin-no-Yu-type of hot spring. The temperature of this gurgling hot spring from which steam vapors rise within the compounds of the Tenjin Shrine that enshrines Sugawara no Michizane, god of learning, is about 98 degrees.

▲ The stone Torii Gate of Tenjin Shrine

The stairs of Tenjin Shrine have a reddish-brown color as a result of the rich iron and salt content in the Kin-no-Yu
hot spring water. The precincts are not that large, but this is a popular photo spot because the steam vapors billowing up makes an excellent background for a commemorative photo.

▲ The area is maintained as a garden called Gosho Sengen

The Gosho Sengen is to the south and next to the popular Kin no Yu, another outdoor bath of Arima Onsen. This is also a Kin-no-Yu hot spring and the area maintained as a garden is a popular spot for couples and is illuminated at night.

You probably noticed the surreal signboards near the hot spring source.

▲ There is a story behind these odd signboards

There are several of these signboards with the cartoonish body and realistic faces scattered throughout the hot spring town. Actually these were created in 2013 during the Arima Onsen Backstreet Art Project and the faces are those of individuals who work at Arima Onsen. All together there are nine of these signboards which you might enjoy looking for.

Arima Onsen souvenirs: These rice crackers are always a favorite!

Arima Onsen souvenirs: These rice crackers are always a favorite!
▲Tansan Sembei is a cracker made with carbonated spring water

A popular product of Arima Onsen is the Tansan Sembei. Flour, starch, and sugar are mixed with carbonated spring water, rolled into a thin sheet and then roasted to make a slightly sweet and crisp cracker. This is a treat that many have tasted even though they have never been to Arima Onsen.

▲Mitsumori Honpo has been faithfully following the production method since its beginning

There are many shops that sell the carbonated cracker in the hot spring town, but Mitsumori, which has ten shops in the town, was the first, beginning sales of it in 1907. Mitsumori Honpo, situated in Yumotozaka along with other gift shops and places to eat, has been making the crackers by hand in the same way since its beginning.

▲ You can watch the crackers being made inside the shop

You can watch the crackers being made and grilled inside the quaint wood-frame shop and to the side, a task of trimming the crackers called "bari" being performed. Often the window is opened and freshly roasted crackers are offered to onlookers to sample. Most find them so delicious that they end up buying them as gifts. A round can containing 34 crackers costs 1,080 yen (tax included).

  • Mitsumori Honpo
    • Address 809 Arima-cho, Kita-ku, Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture
    • Phone Number 078-904-0106
    • Open: 9:00 a.m. ~ 6:00 p.m.
      Closed: always open

Kame brand hot spring cosmetics are a favorite with women

Kame brand hot spring cosmetics are a favorite with women
▲Kame [turtle] Brand Beautiful Skin Soap is made with carbonated spring water and costs 756 yen including tax

Soap, bath salts, mist, hand cream, and other skin care products are popular with women visiting Arima Onsen. Those who have used them swear by them and often come back time and again to purchase them. They are also sold at Yoshitakaya, a gift shop in front of the Kobe Electric Railway Arima Onsen Station.

▲Yoshitakaya is located at the entrance to the hot spring town and can be easily spotted by its hand-painted sign and the retro post box nearby.

In addition to skin care products, there are also many other items and original gifts packed into this store with the nostalgic atmosphere, making it a fun place to window shop.

▲ Reproductions of the Arima Cider Teppo Water cost 250 yen a bottle, including tax

This is a reproduction of the Arima Cider Teppo Water, the first cider drink made with carbonated spring water in Japan in the early 1900s. “Teppo” is the word for “gun” in Japanese and gives its name to the drink because of the popping sound made when opened. The reproduction of the original label has a gun on it.

  • Yoshitakaya
    • Address 259 Arima-cho, Kita-ku, Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture
    • Phone Number 078-904-0154
    • Open: 9:00 a.m. ~ 8:00 p.m.
      Closed: Wednesdays (open on national holidays)

▲ Taiko-dori is the name of the main street in the hot spring town

It takes about 30 minutes to get to Arima Onsen either by train or express bus from Sannomiya. From Osaka it takes only about an hour, so this is a good destination for a day trip. Autumn is the best time, but the hot springs can be enjoyed throughout all the seasons, so when you visit the Kansai region, you should definitely make a point to visit here.

  • Arima Onsen Total Information Center
    • Address 790-3 Arima-cho, Kita-ku, Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture
    • Phone Number 078-904-0708
    • Open: 9:00 a.m. ~ 7:00 p.m. (Hours shortened during the end of year holidays)
      Closed: always open

Text by:Editorial Works

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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