Saturday, January 17, 2009

Kin no Yu - Steeped in Onsen History

It felt refreshing and not just because we had been hiking for over six hours to get there. The trek started from the warm, south-side of the Rokko Mountain range at Hankyu Ashiyagawa up to the 900+ meter high ridge, then down to the frozen, snowy, north-side to the famed Arima Onsen area. Actually, a long-awaited soak is one of the drawing points of most people who hike a similar route.

Arima Onsen has a recorded history of over 1400 years and it ranks along with Dogo and Shirahama as the three oldest spas in Japan. Pricey hotels in this area, with natural hot spring water, bring in guests from the nearby metropolitan areas of Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe as well as more distance destinations. Kin no Yu (Gold Water) and Gin no Yu (Silver Water) spas seem related since they advertise on the same brochure. These two spas have ancient roots and they are open to the general public for ¥650. The outside foot soak is free, I believe.

The time not to visit Arima Onsen, if choosing is possible, would be weekends and national holidays. Bus transportation to and from Takarazuka or Ashiyagawa (35 minutes) is limited to maybe two buses an hour on Sunday evenings, the time when hikers normally end up there. Roads are congested with Sunday drivers which makes the travel times unknown.

When walking around Arima Onsen city on this Sunday, January the 11th, afternoon we noticed some uncapped, 98°C hot spring pools steam and emit a smell of sulphur. The main element, printed in Kin no Yu's published propaganda, seems to be iron. Its concentration could account for the light-brown water color at Kin no Yu and one of the warning signs saying not to drop your towel in the water. It would surely stain.

Kin no Yu onsen is well worth a visit if you happen to be passing through but it doesn't seem worth the time and effort to go there simply for a soak. It has only three hot baths: one, city clear-water at 41°C, one, light brown color water bath at 41°C, and a similar color water bath at 42°C. It offers no other bathing options such as, a cold bath, a sauna, or even a rotenburo (outdoor bath), like many of the onsen on the south-side of the Rokko Mountain range. The water didn't seem aerated or slimy like the green mineral water of Minatoyama Onsen or Nada Onsen.

Kin no Yu must get its share of non-Japanese since it posts the do's and don'ts of proper bathing etiquette. I only broke one rule. I used the individual shower spray while standing, not sitting, at the wash station. We shouldn't do this because we might spray the nearby bather who is also washing.

As many readers already know, bathing in hot water at home, often daily, still remains a custom among most adult Japanese. And it is common for work associates, friends, and relatives to bathe together. Of course, only same-sex bathing. Japanese might even make an overnight trip together for the purpose of visiting a hot spring area. It is not uncommon to easily spend an hour or two going from a hot bath, to another hot bath, to a cold bath, to the sauna, to the outdoor bath, or in whichever order one desires. On an overnight trip to a hot spring, most people will spend at least two, long sessions soaking.

Kin no Yu is closed every 2nd and 4th Tuesday, and it is open on the other days from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Other information is available by phone, 078-904--680 or from its website:

定休日 ● 第2・第4火曜日(祝日営業 翌日休)
及び 1月1日
営業時間 ● 午前8時〜午後10時
入浴料 ●
大人 650円(中学生以上)
小人 340円(小学生)
幼児 140円(5才以下)
※ 3才未満は無料

住所 ● 〒651-1401 神戸市北区有馬町833
TEL ● 078-904-0680

View Larger Map
Reviewed on Sunday, January 11, 2009, around 4 p.m.

1 comment:

sleepytako said...

I've only been the Arima once and I went to Kin no Yu. It was the first onsen I went to in Japan. Two weeks after arriving here as an exchange student. Good water but, not so much there. Really crowded also. My wife, who grew up in Nishinomiya, has never been to Arima. We drive by at least a few times a month on the way to Karato-no-yu, but have never stopped to check it out together.

There are a few other busses and trains to get in and out of Arima. Shintetsu (神戸電鉄) is an option, although a bit expensive and slow. There are discount tickets that you can buy before hand that include admission to an onsen with the train fare. Also there's a bus that goes from Yamaguchi-cho in Nishinomiya over the mountain to the Shukugawa area.