Arima Onsen Guide
If you are in Kobe and long for a relaxing getaway, Arima Onsen is the place to be.
Arima Onsen is a small hot spring town only a bus ride away from Kobe. It takes around 50 minutes by direct bus from Sannomiya, which is the cheapest option, or as little as half an hour by train, express bus or even cable car via mount Rokko.
When I was living in Kobe, day trips to Arima Onsen were one of our favorite group activities to unwind and relax.
The town and private baths
Arima Onsen is very small, so you can visit it all in a couple of hours. There are a toy museum, some temples and shrines, super cute narrow streets and shops to look at, but the big attraction are definitely the baths.
Many ryokans have their own fancy private hot springs with all sorts of comforts and services, that are open to the public during the day. If you’re planning a nice all-included stay, these ryokans are the best option (check out the Goshobo for example). However, the prices tend to be a bit steep in both cases: around 20,000 yen for the overnight stay or 2,000 yen on average for day time only.
If you want to enjoy the hot springs without spending too much money, there’s the wonderful combined ticket option for the two public baths in town: Kin no Yu and Gin no Yu.
The first one, whose name means “golden water”, has two pools of brownish water (hence the name) that apparently is beneficial to the skin. The second one (“silver water”) is supposed to be good for muscle and joints problems.
Combined ticket price: 850 yen
Separate tickets: 550 + 650 yen
Arima Onsen is famous all over the world for its hot springs, so don’t miss the chance to enjoy its miraculously beneficial waters. If you have never been to a Japanese onsen before, I explain a bit how it works here. Also, Japanese old ladies are very friendly around here, so be prepared to funny conversations with them. (If you speak Japanese, they will tell you that you’re very smart and will ask you if you’re planning on getting married soon).
Extra tip: when you come out of the baths, buy one of those little glass bottle of milk they sell: it’s the most refreshing thing ever!
Himeji is the second biggest city in the Hyogo Prefecture after Kobe, but most people visit it just because of its incredible castle.
The Himeji Castle is one of the most famous and beautiful castles in the country (especially now that the renovations are finally over!), so if you have half a day to spare, you may want to consider stopping here. Especially if you’re in Japan in April for the cherry blossoms, when the area is at its prettiest.
From the station, all you have to do is walk straight on the main road until you see the majestic castle in front of you. Enter the main gate and enjoy the beauty of the third bailey’s garden (the admission here is free). If you keep walking, you’ll eventually get to the ticket booth to enter the inner area.
I visited the castle when it was under renovation: the lower floors were closed, so I didn’t see much, but to my understanding most of them are unfurnished and not super interesting. On the top floor there is a small exhibition with videos and panels describing the history of the castle and the different architectural escamotages used to keep the enemies at bay.
The best part though is definitely the outside and the garden. Take your time to walk on the winding paths and around the defensive walls, rest under the cherry trees and take in all the magic of the place.
Price: 1000 yen
By JR train it will take no more than 1 hour to get to Himeji from Kobe, with multiple trains departing every hour.
A good half-day trip to see one of the original castles still standing in Japan.
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