Kobe, Japan and Arima Onsen

Trip Taken: 2007

I was meeting my friend Jason, who was teaching English in Osaka for a year, in Shin-Kobe train station in the afternoon after a morning of sightseeing. One of the few things on my definite to do list was to soak up some R&R in a real hot springs. Arima onsen is a hot springs resort town that is within the city limits of Kobe. We took the onsen train from Kobe city to the hills where Arima is.


There are two public baths in Arima, Gin-no-yu and Kin-no-yu. They are the gold and silver baths respectively. I went to Arima on a Tuesday when only one of the baths are open. So fate chose Gin-no-yu for me. After buying my bath token, I deposited my shoes and got a pair of slippers. No dirty footwear is allowed inside the bath grounds. After changing in the locker room, there are two baths to choose from. There is the red bath rich in iron and the hotter hot springs. I spent about twenty minutes before feeling completely relaxed and a little light-headed. The former is actually a good sign, but the latter is definitely a sign to get out of the bath.

After the bath, we headed to the vending machines for a refreshing drink. We picked the yogurt vending machine. Here is a video of the quirky machine.

Foot bath and drink

One of the few free things in Arima onsen is a foot bath. The foot bath has increasing levels of temperature with the hottest pool closest to the spring. It is insanely hot and I would definitely build up to putting your foot in it. The foot bath is definitely a great way to start if you have been walking all day.

Another free activity is to sample the mineral spring water. There is a small spigot with some cups. There is also a sign to tell you about the benefits of the water. The taste is dry and metallic. I don’t know how water could be dry but it is.

Around town

Many of the guesthouses and inns also provide hot spring baths available to the public. You can also easily identify the guests of those guesthouses by the kimonos and robes they wear. The town of Arima is actually quite small and you can visit the small temples and shops. There are quite a few artisans here. I saw one shop with a brush maker diligently crafting a new brush. There also a lot of gift shops here. My friend Jason told me it is customary for Japanese people to bring small gifts to friends and family. If you see many small gifts or packages with individual gifts, then now you know why.

It was already dark when we decided to head down the hills into Kobe city. The train already stopped running so we had to take the bus down into town. I bought some gifts before the bus arrived and another drink from the ubiquitous vending machines in Japan.

Parting Words

Another onsen I visited during my time around here is in Kyoto. It features an outdoor bath, herbal baths, and an electric bath. It is a smaller bath and the lady proprietor will just walk into the men’s locker room when it is time to clean it. Ask the reception desk of where you are staying for directions and make sure to check the times for men, women, and co-ed baths.

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About the Author

John is always trying to find his way back to the road. He has an affinity for Germany due to his three years studying German at Cal, and a year working as an intern in the Stuttgart area. He also likes chocolate cake and good cheese.