Arima Onsen is a natural hot spring resort in Hyogo prefecture, and is Japan’s third oldest hot spring. If you want absolute relaxation and peace, this is the place to go. While close enough to touristy areas like Osaka or Kyoto to be an easy day trip, Arima is screened from the cities by Mt. Rokko, which gives the resort the feeling of being surrounded by nature.
As one of Japan’s most popular onsen destinations, Arima attracts a good amount of tourists. The charming cobblestone roads of Arima are full of ryokan (traditional Japanese-style inns) and hotels, most of which have their own baths. Arima Onsen has a variety of public baths open to visitors, but the experience of staying at an onsen ryokan is well worth the extra cost.
Arima Onsen is unique in Japan in that its hot spring are not the result of volcanic activity. Arima’s onsen water comes from deep underground and rich with elements that supposedly provide health benefits.
What Can You Do There?
Arima’s main attractions are its onsen. Ever since 631 AD, visitors have enjoyed bathing in Arima’s three famous springs, in particular, Kinsen, the gold spring, and Ginsen, the silver spring.
Top Onsen in Arima
Kin no Yu: The “Gold” Onsen
Kin-no-Yu is the first of the public baths. Although the building has been rebuilt and extensively renovated, it is on the site of the original bath, making it the third oldest onsen in Japan, after Dogo and Shirahama Onsen.
Benefits of the Onsen
The onsen’s name, water of gold, references the “gold” spring that feeds Arima’s baths. The name comes from the high concentration of iron and salt (1.5 times more salt than sea water) in the water, which gives it a reddish-brown hue when it comes into contact with air.
Kin-no-Yu’s water is considered effective for burns, arthritis, neuralgia, anemia and many chronic illnesses—not that you’ll need a prescription to immerse yourself in Kin-no-Yu’s baths. There are three baths, offering you the choice of Arima’s mineral waters.
Kin-no-yu is open 8:00-22:00, with the last entry at 21:30.
Closed: 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month, or the next day when these dates fall on a national holiday.
Also closed on January 1st.
650 yen for adults (junior high school student and above)
340 yen for elementary school children
Young children are free
330 yen for disabled guests with papers to prove their disability
Gin no Yu – The “Silver” Onsen
No prizes for guessing that Gin-no-Yu, (translated to “water of silver”), takes its name from the silver spring.
The silver spring comes in two varieties, but the one used for bathing is renowned for the low level of radiation in its carbonic water. Gin-no-Yu is located in a modern building. The bath is simple, but includes a sauna.
Health Benefits of the Onsen
Carbonic water has a cleansing effect, boosting circulation, while the low levels of radium are said to boost the body’s immune system, cell activation, and relieve muscle fatigue. Drinking or inhaling the spring water is believed to help gastrointestinal and bronchial disorders.
9:00-21:00 (last entry 20:30)
Closed: 1st and 3rd Tuesday each month, or the next day when these dates fall on a national holiday.
Also closed on January 1st.
550 yen for adults
290 yen for elementary school students
Small children enter for free
280 yen for handicapped guests with papers to prove their disability
A combination ticket can be bought that gives admission to both Kin-no-Yu and Gin-no-Yu for 850 yen.
Taiko no Yu:
Taiko-no-Yu offers visitors 24 different baths in which to enjoy Arima’s signature waters, including the famous outdoor baths known as rotenburo. Among the baths is a replica of a historic bath that you can see at the Arima Onsen Museum.
Taiko-no-yu has services that other public baths lack, like massages and a variety of beauty services. You can even pay to dip your feet in a pond of skin-eating fish. Relax—the fish eat dead skin only.
Taiko-no-Yu is part of the Arima View Hotel Urara and there is a free shuttle between the hotel and Arima Onsen Station.
2400 yen for adults
1200 for elementary school students
400 yen for children 3 – 5 years old
Weekend/national holiday, and peak period entrance fee
2600 yen for adults
1300 for elementary school students
500 yen for 3-5-year-olds
10:00-23:00 (11:00 pm), with the last entry at 22:00 (10:00 pm).
Taiko-no-Yu will be closed on the following dates:
May 9th, 2017
September 5th and 6th, 2017
January 10th, 2018
In addition to the onsen, Arima has a few interesting sights around the town. The onsen museum explores Arima’s interesting history. There are various temples dating from the Edo period when Arima became fashionable with Japan’s elite. There’s a cable car that takes you to a viewpoint on Mt. Rokko overlooking Osaka, Kobe, and a few hiking trails.
Is it Worth Visiting?
For onsen enthusiasts, absolutely. The history of the town, the unique properties of the water and the baths themselves, all make Arima worth the trip. For others, the trip is best paired with something else, such as a hike through Mt. Rokko, or an overnight stay at a ryokan.
How to Get There
Highway buses going directly to Arima leave from Kobe’s Sannomiya and Shin-Kobe bus terminals and Osaka’s Umeda and Shin-Osaka bus terminals.
Take the Hankyu Bus Line for 1370 yen one-way or 2740 yen roundtrip. The earliest bus departs Umeda at 8:10 am, stopping to pick up passengers at Shin-Osaka at 8:19 am, and arriving at Arima Onsen at 9:10 am.
The final bus departs at 17:20 (5:20 pm), arriving at Arima at 18:15 (6:16 pm – no stop at Shin-Osaka). You can purchase bus tickets from the bus terminals or by phoning the reservation center at 06-6866-3147.
From Sannomiya Station in Kobe
You have the choice of the Hankyu or Shinki buses going to Arima Onsen.
The first departure departs at 9:00 am, and the last bus departs at 18:35 (6:35 pm).
These are local buses, meaning you pay the driver when you get off the bus, and there is no room for large luggage. The journey costs 700 yen and takes around 40 minutes.
The JR Arima Express buses cost 770 yen but make the trip in 33 minutes or so. The JR buses require a reservation.
Buy a ticket at the station, or reserve over the phone 06-6371-0111. The first bus leaves Sannomiya at 8:50 am (arriving at Arima at 9:20 am), and the last leaves at 18:45 (6:45 pm ) arriving at 19:25 (7:25 pm).
Starting at Kobe’s Sannomiya Station, transfer to the subway, taking the Seishin Yamate line to Tanigami Station.
At Tanigami, transfer to the Arima/Sanda line for Sanda or Arima Onsen. If you’ve caught an express, you will need to get off at Arima-guchi and transfer to a local train, before finally arriving at your final destination, Arima Onsen. The 30 – 40-minute journey costs 930 yen.
Alternatively, you could take the Hankyu Line from Sannomiya to Rokko (7 minutes, 190 yen per way on the Hankyuu Kobe Line Local to Umeda), and transfer to a bus (number 16, 10 minutes, 210 yen each way) to the Mt. Rokko Cable Car Station.
The trip to the Mt. Rokko cable car station is 590 yen one-way or 1000 yen for a round trip ticket. Here, you can transfer to the Rokko Arima Ropeway, the cable car connecting Mt. Rokko to Arima. What the cable car lacks in convenience, it makes up for with beautiful views.
You’ll wish that the 12-minute trip was a lot longer! The Rokko Arima Cable Car is 1010 yen for a one-way ticket, or 1820 yen for a round trip ticket.
There are numerous well-maintained hiking trails across Mt. Rokko.
The tourist information center in JR Sannomiya Station has free maps showing the hiking trails. A popular route that is not too difficult is to start at Hankyu Ashiyagawa Station. From there, the walk to Arima Onsen is about 12 km, taking between 4 to 5 hours to complete.
Instead of departing from Arima and hiking to another destination, make Arima Onsen your final destination so you can reward your hard work with a bath at the end of your journey.
Periodically, discount travel tickets that combine transport to Arima with entry into the onsen become available. It’s worth asking about at tourist information centers, ticket counters at major train stations, or travel agents ahead of time.
Places to Stay
Arima Grand Hotel
For a luxurious getaway, consider the Arima Grand Hotel. Upon arrival at Arima Onsen, the hotel shuttle will whisk you up the hill to the hotel. The location allows for incredible views and some lovely gardens.
You can choose between a Japanese style room with futons or a Western style room with beds. Rooms start at 11880 yen for breakfast and no dinner—but a big part of the ryokan experience is being served a delicious kaiseki meal in your room. Kaiseki is a meal comprised of a series of small, exquisitely prepared courses, using fresh and high-quality ingredients.
Tasting the masterful and subtle nuances of each dish is an experience in itself. A room with the full kaiseki experience, including items like Kobe beef, sushi, and tempura costs 34560 yen. Naturally, for a hotel at an onsen resort, Arima Grand Hotel has wonderful baths. The hotel offers both public open-air baths and private baths that you can rent out.
For a more traditional ryokan experience, Taketoritei Maruyama offers truly Japanese hospitality. You have the option of reserving a room with an outdoor bath or onsen. Of course, the hotel’s public onsens are wonderful as well. Having your own private onsen doesn’t come cheap. Prices range from 39000-50,000 yen for one night. The room charge includes breakfast and a delicious kaiseki dinner .
For an Arima stay that is all about the onsen, you can’t go past Kamiobo. This ryokan is located the closest to “Tenjin Sengen,” which is a source of Arima’s onsen water. As a result, Kamiobo’s bath water is said to have more concentrated minerals than the baths of its competitors.
While Kamiobo’s bath facilities are dated, and there are no outdoor baths (rotenburo), but the retro vibe is part of the fun. Rates start at 12030 yen for one person with breakfast only, or 13110 yen per person for two people with two meals, 7710 yen per person with breakfast only.
Don’t rush Arima. You need to spend some time (at least overnight) to soak in the atmosphere of this historic onsen town. Arima is full of traditional buildings, decrepit looking machinery spouting steam, intriguing shops, and some gorgeous views of nature.
The river bed is threaded with bridges and water features, making it fun to explore. Take your time, savoring the traditional snacks and goods on offer, before relaxing into a bath with the knowledge that you’re following the footsteps of over a 1000 years of visitors.