Onsen-tastic in the Snow
Trip Start Jun 29, 2010
650Trip End Apr 07, 2012
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Where I stayed
Khaosan Kyoto Guest House
Kinosaki is famed for the Onsens and also famous for the quality of its crab and finally we are in the right place at the right time as Winter is the best time for crabs! Hurrah! No sooner had we left Fukuchiyama the snow really started to fall, leaving Annabelle at a loss for how she would get around Kinosaki with only her flip flops on.
As we progressed through the hills towards Kinosaki the snow got worse and worse and was soon literally metres deep.
It was so bad that we both felt a bit nervous and worried that the day would be ruined.
When we pulled into station the town of Kinosaki looked so pretty in the snow which was hanging onto trees and lamp posts.
As we exited the station it looked like the snow had temporarily stopped but it had left a massive amount of slush outside on the pavements.
It was so bad we wondered if we would be able to get anywhere and started to discuss maybe staying at the Sato no Yu Onsen which was attached to the station. Chris gingerly crossed the road to test the water and get a tourist map while Annabelle took her funky flip flop socks off and prepared herself to get extremely cold feet.
With a map in hand we found our way across to Station Street, hoping to get as far as the towns canal which was the most famous part of Kinosaki. Although we struggled with the initial slush which was about 6 inches deep, when we got onto the main road we spotted some very clever small vents in the middle of the road which were pumping out warm water automatically.
This stopped the snow from laying and kept the roads clear, leaving us with a pathway to walk along, brilliant, what a great idea!
We made many stops down Station Street as we looked around the many shops full of the days fresh catch of beautiful crabs.
Many of the shops also had beautiful fresh fish hanging on hooks outside, it was a photographers dream and Skeney was steadily papping away.
Station Street itself looked absolutely amazing, mostly due to the snow, it was a really magical. We stopped for a moment to take a photo of one shop in particular which had a giant crab hanging from the front of it. Just as we started to move onwards Chris walked out from the shops shelter and was suddenly covered with a mass of falling snow which slid off the roof and landed right on his shoulders, dribbling all the way down his back. All we could do was laugh, brilliant.
Despite the cold Annabelle still managed a pose or two and also attracted a few looks from locals who mostly pointed at her feet and laughed. As we neared the end of the main street we found the towns canal and incredibly the sun suddenly started to shine, helping to take Annabelle's mind off her freezing cold feet.
The canal looked really beautiful as we crossed over the Jizouyu bridge and started walking along Kitayanagi Street, heading towards the Onsen of Ichino-yu.
The Onsen house was in a classically designed building which was the foremost bath house on the western coast and had recently been renovated in 1999. When we entered we paid our fee and went our separate ways to get changed, each changing room having a different colour curtain.
Inside we both found very modern washing facilities and one large pool which although nice was a bit disappointing as we liked to have lots of pools at different temperatures.
Then we both found the cave pool outside and all was forgiven. Luckily, although not allowed, Annabelle managed to get some photos of the cave pool which had a beautiful blue stone floor. As we both sat in our respective cave pools we realised that we were the only ones out there and we started to have a chat across the fence that was dividing us.
Outside there was plenty of steam as some of the snow fell into the boiling hot pools and boy were they boiling. In fact they were so hot that we had to take regular breaks so that we did not collapse from the heat. Somehow Annabelle managed to grab a handful of snow and throw it over the 10 foot fence between us, managing to hit Chris square between the shoulder blades, unbelievable. She laughed her head off.
We spent about an hour inside and relaxing and Chris had a shave before we met back up outside.
Much warmer and very relaxed we pottered off down the road to take more of a look around Kinosaki.
We were also trying to find a magnet and ended up taking photos of the lovely streets which looked so great as the snow started to fall again, and boy did it fall. It really was a winter wonderland.
We were heading for the local arcade where we found a small cafe and ordered a coffee and a crème brule, which was famous Kinosaki treat. Then we just sat and watched the thick now fall while we kept warm, it was beautiful.
As the snow continued to fall thick and fast we did start to wonder if we would ever get back to Kyoto and whether the trains would even be running? Although we had planned to get to the Kou no Yu Spa, which was the furthest away, the snow took its toll and stopped us from going much further. Luckily, just across the road was the Goshono-yu Onsen which was in a beautiful setting and flanked by huge trees struggling under the weight of the snow that was sat on top of them.
After taking some photos of the outside of Goshono-yu we found a small English owned tea shop, how mad was that. Although it was closed they had a brilliant sign on the door stating "Credit Given – to customers aged over 80 accompanied by both parents – we wondered if they had ever had any takers?
Inside, Goshono-yu was very impressive. It was the newest of all the Kinosaki baths and we joked that it was probably like the David Lloyd of Onsens. Although classic looking from outside the inside of the Onsen was super modern and just amazing.
The building was wooden with glass panels leading to the garden and also in the roof. It had a large modern wash area and a huge indoor bath where strong sprays did a great job of massaging Chris’s back. Also inside was a bench that had hot water pumped onto the seat and when we sat down it was sprayed down our backs, amazing.
Before heading into the garden there was a steam room with a difference. This one had a pool of water to put your feet in as we sat and enjoyed the steam. The room also had a connecting door to the outdoor pools which were one of the most amazing things we did in Japan. Sitting outside in a boiling hot natural pool, watching the water flow out from the rocks and with the snow falling on our heads was just an incredible thing to do, a real Japanese highlight.
We stayed there, more than content for around another 1 ½ hours before heading off to taste some of the local crab.
We had to make a quick stop at the first Onsen and while Chris retrieved his wash bag, Annabelle was busy taking photos of the outside.
As she did this she offered to take a photo for an old couple who then started trying to have a full blown conversation with her in Japanese, it was so funny. Also opposite the Onsen was a natural spring that locals said gave them good health.
As it had small cups next to it Chris took a taste and immediately had to spit it out. It was salty and warm and we were suddenly unsure if he should be drinking it at all, it was not good.
A little further down the street we found the Yanagi-yu Onsen which had a free foot spa at the front and provided a great little place for Annabelle to take a short stop to warm up her cold little feet, what a lovely idea.
Back on Station Street we finally got to taste some of the local crab. We found a great stall which sold crab steamed puddings that turned out to be the best snack ever. The crab was in prime season from December to March and the 300 Yen treat was served to us with a small sachet of mustard for seasoning. They were so amazingly delicious that we had to go back for a second. Another option would have been to eat Kani, which is crab cooked in broth at your table, but sadly our budget did not allow for such an extravagant experience, maybe next time?
Finally back at the train station we had 40 minutes to wait for our train, which amazingly was still actually running. Just next to the station was the Satono-yu Onsen which also had a famous feet bathing spa. We whipped the socks off and started to bathe our feet as we waited for our train back to Kyoto.
When we got onto train it was running 20 minutes late which was to be understood considering the weather which was getting worse as the day went on. It also had us very worried that we were going to miss our connection back to Kyoto. Half way back to Fukuchiyama Chris developed a strange and very unexpected problem with his foot problem and had no idea how on earth it had happened. Suddenly he could not walk on it properly, as though he had sprained it, o dear.
After hobbling to change trains we were on our last leg of the journey and chatting about what an amazing day it had been, 110% worth the travelling involved.
On arrival back in Kyoto we decided to take the subway back to the hostel as Chris could not walk properly. Having stumbled back so late we opted for the very easy option of a McDonalds for dinner which, for a McDonalds, was amazing quality.
Back at the hostel Chris took some Ibuprofen tablets and rested his foot and we had a small glass of red wine as we chatted about our day, one of the most memorable enjoyable and relaxing days in Japan.