Legend has it that storks would bathe in the marshes of Kinosaki to heal their wounds. Later, bath houses were built over these very sites to take advantage of the healing waters. Since then Kinosaki has become a top onsen destination in the Kansai region.
Nowadays there are numerous ryokan in the area, all with their own baths, but the real draw to Kinosaki are its seven public bath houses (sotoyu). Also scattered throughout town are some beautiful foot baths (ashiyu) and spring water drinking fountains.
Kinosaki's public bath houses
Hours: 13:00 to 21:00 Closed: Mondays
Satono-yu is Kinosaki's largest bath house, located next to the train station. It has two styles of baths, traditional and Romanesque, which rotate daily between men and women. The large variety of baths includes waterfalls and mist rooms, as well as steam, dry and penguin (refrigerated) saunas.
Hours: 7:00 to 23:00 Closed: Fridays
Jizo-yu is located at the intersection of the river and Ekidori, the main road that leads to the Kinosaki train station. This bath house's main baths feature high ceilings. Private family baths are also available for an additional 3000 yen per 40 minute session.
Hours: 15:00 to 23:00 Closed: Thursdays
Recently renovated, Yanagi-yu ("willow bath") is Kinosaki's smallest public bath house, but some find its traditional feel with hand-cut timbers and wooden baths particularly inviting. It also has a small street-side ashiyu (foot bath) next to its entrance.
Hours: 7:00 to 23:00 Closed: Wednesdays
Ichino-yu is located near the center of town and was last renovated in 1999. Its indoor baths are modern granite while its outdoor baths are located in a cave. Private family baths are available for an additional 3000 yen per 40 minute session.
Hours: 7:00 to 23:00 Closed: Thursdays
Completely redesigned and rebuilt in 2005, Goshono-yu ("imperial palace bath") is one of Kinosaki's larger bath houses, featuring a multi-level outdoor bath facing a waterfall, as well as a granite water bench and a steam sauna where onsen water is sprayed into the air to create a fine mist.
Hours: 15:00 to 23:00 Closed: Wednesdays
Mandara-yu is the only bath house that is located off the main road. You'll find it one block south of the main road (Yunosatodori) just before the road turns north to the ropeway entrance. It has an enticing outdoor bath, and it is said that Mandara-yu is the most attractive of the public baths.
Hours: 7:00 to 23:00 Closed: Tuesdays
Kono-yu is near the ropeway entrance located on the spot where legend says that storks would bathe to heal their wounds. It was the first bath house in Kinosaki, although it has been rebuilt numerous times since its founding. Kono-yu features an outdoor bath with a view of the surrounding forests.
Visitors staying at a local ryokan can use Kinosaki's seven public bath houses for free between check-in and check-out with a special pass that they receive from their ryokan. In fact, many guests skip their ryokan's bath in favor of a sotoyu meguri (bath stroll), walking around sampling the various public baths. In the past it was also customary to visit Onsenji Temple to say a prayer before bathing.
Visitors who do not stay overnight may consider purchasing the Yumepa ticket for 1300 yen, which provides them with unlimited admission to all of the town's seven public baths on one calendar day. The ticket can be purchased at each bath. Alternatively, it is possible to buy tickets for just single bath houses for 700 yen (800 yen for Satono-yu).
When visiting public baths, it is recommended that you bring your own towels or towels provided by the ryokan you are staying at, though towels are also available for purchase or rental at bath houses. Soap and shampoo are provided within the baths.
Getting there and around
Kinosaki's seven public baths are scattered across the town, about 100 to 400 meters apart from each other. All can be reached on foot. It takes about 15-25 minutes to walk from the station to the most distant bath house, Kono-yu.