Natural hot springs (温泉, onsen) are numerous and highly widespread across Japan. Every region of the country has its share of hot springs and resort towns, which come with them.
There are many types of hot springs, distinguished by the minerals dissolved in the water. Different minerals provide different health benefits, and all hot springs are supposed to have a relaxing effect on your body and mind. Hot spring baths come in many varieties, indoors and outdoors, gender separated and mixed, developed and undeveloped. Many hot spring baths belong to a ryokan, while others are public bathhouses. An overnight stay at a hot spring ryokan is a highly recommended experience for any visitor to Japan.
When I discovered such a “magical” thing as hot spring baths, I understood that I’m eager to try it all possible kinds of them. And now I’m trying to collect interesting “places” around Japan.
So let me start with the one I had the most controversial feelings and experience.
Celebrated hot spring resort within the city limits
Arima Onsen (有馬温泉) is a famous hot spring village within the city limits of Kobe, but on the opposite side of Mount Rokko from the city center. The village lies in a natural mountain setting, yet is close enough for Kobe and Osaka residents as an easy and popular day or weekend trip.
I know some of you wouldn’t agree with me that Arima is a village, but after such huge towns like Tokyo, Arima feels more like a neighborhood compared to it.
Arima Onsen has a modern look and is pretty built up, but you still can find several narrow lanes and wooden buildings when strolling around the center of town. Due to its compact size, this small village can be explored entirely on foot, and there are several hot spring sources, beautiful temples and shrines, and a small hot spring museum (200 yen).
With a history of over one thousand years, Arima Onsen is considered one of Japan’s oldest hot spring resorts and has often stood at or near the top of onsen rankings for Western Japan. The town has two types of hot spring waters which spring up at various sources around town: the Kinsen (“gold water”) is colored brown with iron deposits and is said to be good for skin ailments and muscle pain, while the clear Ginsen (“silver water”) contains radium and carbonate and is said to cure various muscle and joint diseases.
Visitors to Arima Onsen can enjoy hot spring bathing at two public bathhouses or at the town’s many ryokans. Several ryokans opened their baths also to non-staying visitors during the day. The admission fee for a day-trip visit to a bath typically ranges between 500 and 2500 yen.
I will add my suggestions later, with a link to the story.
By direct bus from Kyoto
JR Bus operates two or three highway buses per day from Kyoto Station (Karasuma side) to Arima Onsen (bus stop 2 on the map, 70 minutes, 1800 yen one way). The Japan Rail Pass and other JR passes are not valid on these buses. Online reservations can be made through Japan Bus Online, my suggestion you print your tickets ahead. And then have to be in your hand. Otherwise, you’ll experience the same problem we faced. More straightforward is to buy tickets at the station, there are at least 2 ticket machines IN ENGLISH, where you can buy your tickets.