Kinosaki Onsen with Kids: Child looking at the river in Kinosaki Onsen

Kinosaki Onsen with Kids

If you know me, I love onsen and I love having this platform to share all of the onsen adventures I have with my family. Earlier this winter, I visited Kinosaki Onsen for the first time and it exceeded my expectations.

From the atmosphere to the food and onsen, Kinosaki Onsen feels magical, making it no surprise that it’s among the most famous onsen (hot spring) towns in Japan. 

In this article, I’ll share my experience visiting Kinosaki Onsen with my family, including where we stayed and what we ate.

What is Kinosaki Onsen?

Willow-lined River at Kinosaki Onsen

Kinosaki Onsen is among the oldest onsen resort towns in Japan. Located in Toyooka City in northern Hyogo Prefecture, it’s a popular vacation destination for people in Kansai, specifically Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe, when they want to escape the city and relax.

Kinosaki Onsen is also one of the few tattoo-friendly onsen in Japan! 

Some of you may be aware that many onsen (and even pools) in Japan don’t allow people with tattoos to visit due to its negative image. However, Kinosaki Onsen doesn’t care about this and all of its onsen allow people with tattoos to take a much-needed soak.

When I visited, I saw many people from different countries with lots of tattoos happily enjoying their time in onsen. 

When to Visit Kinosaki Onsen

Kinosaki Onsen is beautiful throughout the year but depending on what you want to see and do, some seasons might be better than others. 

Winter is one of the best seasons to enjoy soaking in onsen and feeling the delicious contrast between the cold air and warm onsen enveloping your body. Kids, however, might be more likely to catch a cold. 

We visited in December but it was unusually warm at the time, about 20 degrees Celcius, so this is something to also keep in mind. But if you’re lucky, it might snow in winter, and a snow-covered Kinosaki Onsen is absolutely magical. (However, the trains might stop and if you don’t have snow tires, leaving will be a problem.)

If you want to see cherry blossoms, then visiting in spring might be for you. There are lots of cherry blossom trees lining Otani Stream near Kiyamachi Street and Tsukimi Bridge, which create a picturesque view of the famous pink blossoms. 

Summer might be too hot to enjoy onsen, but it’s also the least busy season so you can enjoy Kinosaki Onsen without as many tourists.

In the fall, the leaves on Momiji (maple) change color and are stunning to view from the open-air baths. The weather is also warmer than usual in fall so I imagine it would be quite pleasant to walk around the town and look at the scenery, although it may be too warm for soaking in onsen during the day.

How to Get to Kinosaki Onsen 

Kinosaki Onsen is easily reachable by public transport or car.

To reach Kinosaki Onsen, it takes about 2.5 hours by train or car from Kyoto Station, Osaka Station, and Kobe Station. 

The station in Kinosaki Onsen is, unsurprisingly, Kinosaki Onsen Station. It’s directly connected to the main streets so you’ll see that it’s very accessible and within walking distance to pretty much all the shops, ryokan, and hotels in the area.

We drove to Kinosaki Onsen since we have a car but depending on the train you take, public transport can be really easy with no transfers whatsoever! If you’re coming by car, check to see if the ryokan you’re staying at has parking. If it doesn’t, there’s still plenty of places where you can park.

I recommend parking at the parking lot near Kou no Yu Bathhouse (Spa).

Note that if there is heavy snow, the trains will sometimes be stopped.

Staying at a Family-Friendly Ryokan at Kinosaki Onsen

There are so many places to stay in Kinosaki Onsen. We stayed at Ryokufukaku, a beautiful traditional ryokan in the center of the city. 

The service at Ryokufukaku was impeccable from the moment we arrived. An attendant greeted us before we entered the building and check-in was very quick and smooth. 

Room at Ryokufukaku ryokan at Kinosaki Onsen

Our room was spacious and we made sure to get one of the few that had an open-air onsen bath in the room. One reason why we chose to do this is because it’s easier to take a bath as a family this way since public onsen are separated by gender.

Private open-air bath at Ryokufukaku ryokan at Kinosaki Onsen

The ryokan provided the entire family with two sets of yukata, one for sleeping and the other for wearing outside. We chose not to go outside the ryokan in yukata because it was cold on the day we arrived, but had the weather been better, I definitely would have! Many people were walking around in yukata on the streets and it really added to the onsen town atmosphere. It also makes visiting onsen much easier. 

Speaking of visiting onsen, the ryokan provided us with a pass that allowed us to visit seven ryokan in the area. I believe that most ryokan in Kinosaki Onsen do this but it’s always important to check beforehand. 

Onsen Baths at Ryokufukaku

We checked in a little late, around 5 PM, due to going somewhere beforehand, which left us little time to go out before dinner. So instead, we decided to soak in the onsen in the ryokan before having dinner in our room.

I took my daughter to the onsen baths and was pleased to find there was no one inside. It was like having our own private onsen! Unfortunately, the water in both the indoor and open-air baths was a little too hot for our liking. My daughter tried her best but as the parent, I decided it was too hot for her and we quickly left. 

I think depending on factors like the weather, the onsen water can be hotter usual, and in this case, since it was unseasonably warm for December, the water was especially hot.

This wasn’t the case with the open-air onsen in our room, though, which was just the right temperature.

Kaiseki Dinner at Ryokufukaku

One of my favorite kinds of ryokan are the ones that serve you kaiseki dinner in the room. It’s honestly the best experience being able to eat a course dinner from the comfort of your room and not having to move while stuffed.

And I was stuffed after that dinner, which was probably one of the best I have had in a while! (I am still thinking about it…)

kaiseki dinner at a ryokan in Kinosaki Onsen

We visited the ryokan in December, which is crab season in Japan. So of course, we got a dinner set (kaiseki ryori) featuring all Matsuba crab. There was some beef, too, which is famous in Kinosaki Onsen but it just didn’t compare to the crab.

We were served Matsuba crab in several styles:

  • Crab sashimi 
  • Charcoal grilled crab
  • Crab nabe

It was all so good. The crab was sweet so even people who don’t like seafood would be able to eat it. If you’re not a fan of crab, you haven’t had Matsuba crab.

I am not that big of a seafood eater and I don’t typically eat crab but oh my goodness, this was otherworldly. 

Kaiseki dinner at a ryokan in Kinosaki onsen

Go to Kinosaki Onsen for crab. Don’t stop and don’t think you have to go all the way to Hokkaido, Kinosaki Onsen is the place to be! 

My daughter (4 years old when we visited) got a kid’s meal that featured kid favorites like fried meat, fried chicken, and fried breaded shrimp, but she ended up liking the crab even more! And this was fine because we had more than enough.

Kid's dinner set at a ryokan in Kinosaki Onsen

If you think your child will like crab, then don’t even bother getting them a kid’s set. We didn’t know whether our daughter would enjoy crab since she had never had it before so we got a kid’s set to stay on the safe side, though. 

My daughter is now obsessed with crab meat. For instance, she’s so excited when she sees commercials for crab on Japanese television and asks when she will get another taste. 

Near the end of the dinner, we mixed rice with the leftover nabe liquid and had a risotto-type dish. It also tasted heavenly, and despite being very full, we managed to eat some. I would have had all of it if my stomach had room! 

For dessert, we were given a small plate of cakes, jelly, and a strawberry. We were way too full so we asked the staff to leave it in the room and managed to eat some of it later.

dessert at ryokufukaku ryokan at Kinosaki Onsen

Our Sleep at Ryokufukaku

After the room was cleared and the futon set in the room by the staff, we went to the open-air bath on the balcony of our room. At night, the temperature was perfect and I loved the time we spent bonding as a family.

Nice and warm from our soak, we went to sleep full and happy.

I’m used to sleeping on futon and I slept quite comfortably. We had two futon and our daughter slept on my husband’s.

Everyone woke up refreshed and quite frankly still full from dinner! 

Breakfast at Ryokufukaku

For breakfast, we had to go to the dining room where several tables were set up for guests. The number of guests was on the smaller side when it comes to ryokan I have visited in Japan, which I liked because it was quiet and cozy. 

We were given a course breakfast that consisted of Japanese food for us parents and a Western-style breakfast for our daughter.

Kid's breakfast at Ryokufukaku ryokan in Kinosaki Onsen

I am not a fan of cooked fish so I gave that to my husband. The contents of the breakfast was perfect when considering how much we ate for dinner. Everything was light and healthy. I especially loved the tofu and pickles. 

breakfast at Ryokufukaku ryokan in Kinosaki Onsen

There was also pineapple for dessert, which was a juicy and very refreshing end to our breakfast course.

My husband did one last dip in the ryokan’s onsen since they rotate them every day. I took a quick look at the women’s as I just wanted to see what had been the men’s onsen the day before looked like. (I preferred the previous day’s women’s onsen!)

Checking Out of Ryokufukaku

After breakfast, we had one final soak in the open-air onsen in our room and our daughter watched some Japanese children’s shows on television while we packed. 

When we checked out, my daughter received a cute toy for free, which made her very happy.

After leaving Ryokufukaku, we decided to visit the seven onsen in Kinosaki Onsen using the pass given to us by the ryokan, which we were able to use until the afternoon. After moving our car to the parking spot near Kou no Yu, we decided to start exploring the town and doing some onsen hopping.

If you’re interested in staying at Ryokufukaku, you can find out more about it here.

Other Family-Friendly Ryokan in Kinosaki Onsen

Some other options for family-friendly ryokan in Kinosaki Onsen include:

湯楽 (Yuraku) Kinosaki Spa&Gardens

Nishimuraya Honkan (has rooms with an open-air bath)

Mikuniya Ryokan

Onishiya Suishoen

Ooedo Onsen Monogatari Premium Kinosaki (a little far from the main street)

 

What to Do in Kinosaki Onsen 

Kinosaki Onsen is a place for relaxing, so people usually eat and relax in one of its many onsen. 

Kinosaki Onsen is known for having seven different onsen. Each of these onsen baths are known for having special properties that fulfill wishes, which I’ll share below:

Kou no Yu

Known as the happiness onsen. Ensures a harmonious marriage and long life.

This onsen has an open-air bath.

Gosho no Yu

Known as the beautiful onsen. Soaking in here is apparently supposed to help prevent natural disasters and to meet a good partner.

This onsen has an open-air bath.

Ichi no Yu

This onsen is for getting luck for passing an exam or driving safely.

This onsen has a foot bath. You can also rent a private “family” onsen for up to three people for an additional charge.

Yanagi Yu

Known as the onsen for conceiving a child. Best for those who want a baby and a safe birth, so if you’re trying to conceiving or pregnant, visit here! 

This onsen has a foot bath.

Jizou Yu 

This is the “life-saving” onsen, which is meant to protect your family.

You can also rent a private “family” onsen for up to three people for an additional charge.

Mandara Yu

If you want your business to go well, this is the onsen to visit.

This onsen has an open-air bath.

Sato no Yu

This is known as the onsen for socializing since it’s right next to Kinosaki Station.

This onsen has an open-air bath as well as an open-air bath.

If you want to know more, the video below provides a helpful overview of Kinosaki Onsen and its seven onsen, so give it a watch if you have time! 

 

Note that the days and hours of operation vary depending on the onsen. At least one of these onsen baths are closed once during the week, so make sure you look at the map you receive from your ryokan when deciding where to go.

If you don’t stay at a ryokan and therefore don’t get the pass to enter the onsen freely, you can purchase a pass at any of the seven onsen. This is especially nice if you want to enjoy just a day trip to Kinosaki Onsen.

When we visited Kinosaki Onsen, we made the mistake of arriving late and therefore not having the time to visit any of the onsen baths outside of our ryokan on that day. This meant that we could only visit three out of the seven baths due to this and time constraints.

Here are the baths we visited and my impression of them:

Ichi no Yu

Ichi no Yu Spa at Kinosaki Onsen

This was an onsen bath that has been around since the Edo period. It has a large indoor bath as well as a half-open-air one inside a cave! The water in these baths was quite hot, though, and my daughter couldn’t enjoy it for too long.

The old ladies here were super nice to my daughter and couldn’t stop talking about how cute she was! 

Gosho no Yu

Gosho no Yu Spa at Kinosaki Onsen

This had the most beautiful onsen baths among the ones we visited. The open-air bath offers a view of a waterfall with Japanese maple trees. The water also has beautiful maple leaves floating in it, which were blown in by the wind. 

This bath was just the right temperature so we spent quite a bit of time in it. 

Kou no Yu 

Kou no Yu Spa at Kinosaki Onsen

This is a smaller onsen but I loved the baths since it was quite quiet. The water was also the right temperature, not too hot, so my daughter and I enjoyed the open-air bath that had a view of trees. 

Note that the baths are separated by gender and alternated every day. This means it’s worth visiting all seven onsen on two consecutive days so you can experience all of their baths (if they’re open). 

We also received a stamp book from the ryokan we stayed at. After getting a stamp from each of the seven onsen (you don’t have to visit them all since some have all 7 stamps available), we could get free wooden chopsticks from our ryokan!  

Other things to do in Kinosaki Onsen are to eat and walk along the willow-lined Otanigawa River while looking at different shops and going onsen hopping.

There’s also a ropeway that will take you to a temple dedicated to onsen and a cafe further up with a view. But we decided to skip it since we wanted to go to Marine World (more on that later).

Tip: Bring a hand towel or handkerchief with you and carry it in your bag so you can enjoy the footbaths in town!  

Foot bath at Kinosaki Onsen

What to Know When Visiting Onsen with Kids

I love visiting onsen with my daughter, but I do find it easier to visit with her the older she gets. 

My daughter has been going to onsen since she was about two years old. I felt like that was the best age for me to take her since she was able to walk confidently on her own and I didn’t have to worry about her slipping as much. 

For a full write-up about what to know in advance when visiting onsen with kids, including babies, and what to keep in mind if you’re pregnant, make sure to read my guide to onsen

What to Eat in Kinosaki Onsen

Kinosaki Onsen has lots of delicious food, and all of the food is kid-friendly (well, depending on what your kid likes). Some of the most famous must-eat things include:

Matsuba Crab (Matsubagani)

Crab at Kinosaki Onsen

Kinosaki Onsen is famous for having some of the best crab in Japan, which is called Matsuba crab (matsubagani in Japanese). In fact, this is why Kinosaki Onsen is known as “Crab Kingdom” (かに王国・kani ookoku).

As I mentioned earlier, Matsuba crab is absolutely delectable and the best my family has ever had. It’s in season from the beginning of November to the end of March, so if you want to try it, that’s the best time to visit Kinosaki Onsen.

You’ll find lots of restaurants and even stalls selling crab in various forms, ranging from shabu shabu to fluffy Chinese-style buns packed with crab meat. 

Onsen Tamago

Onsen Tamago at Kinosaki Onsen

Onsen Tamago is an egg that’s been cooked in onsen water. You get to put your eggs into the onsen water and choose how long you want to cook it depending on how you like your eggs.

One place to try this is Kinosaki Gelato Cafe Chaya.

Tajima Beef 

Tajima Beef at Kinosaki Onsen

Tajima beef is among the highest grades and is from Hyogo Prefecture. In fact, Kobe beef is a type of Tajima beef, and the highest grade of Tajima beef! It is a marbled and fatty meat that tastes luxurious and just melts in your mouth.

We enjoyed this at our ryokan but there are lots of restaurants and stalls selling Tajima beef in Kinosaki Onsen.

Duck Ramen

Duck Ramen at Kinosaki Onsen

This isn’t a Kinosaki Onsen-specific food but we had it when we were there and it was delicious. The sliced duck on top of the thin ramen noodles is delectable and the broth is so good that I wanted to drink the entire thing. (But I didn’t because I figured my body wouldn’t like that much sodium).

To try this ramen, visit Kamo Ra-men Tanuki.

Yukuyuku Ongari Pudding

Pudding at Kinosaki Onsen

This is a famous custard pudding sold at Maruyamakaryo that you can only buy in Kinosaki Onsen. It’s creamy with just the right amount of sweetness. 

The name means “after bath pudding”, so it’s recommended to have it right after going into an onsen. The chilled sweet pudding tastes especially good when you’re feeling nice and warmed up from the onsen. 

I shared one of these puddings with my daughter and she loved it! 

Kinosaki Gelato Cafe Chaya

Gelato at Kinosaki Onsen

Kinosaki Gelato Cafe Chaya sells homemade gelato that’s another chilly and delicious contrast after soaking in a pipping hot onsen. 

They have various flavors and styles such as yuzu, matcha, and mango that are served in cups, cones, or parfaits. This location also sells Arima Beef buns and crab buns, as well as onsen tamago.

 

Day Trips from Kinosaki Onsen 

If you’re visiting Kinosaki Onsen, I suggest checking out the following tourist spots.

Amanohashidate

Girl looking at the view of Amanohashidate in Japan

I will have a write-up on this soon but Amanohashidate is a must-visit location in Japan if you’re staying at Kinosaki Onsen and have time. It’s one of Japan’s three scenic views and it does not disappoint. 

I love just walking around the town itself and looking at the blue ocean contrasting against the lush green trees. There’s plenty of room for kids to run around as well.

Reaching Amanohashidate Station takes about an hour by car or 1.5 hours by public transport.

Kinosaki Marine World

Girl looking at marine creatures at Kinosaki Marine World

We took our daughter to Kinosaki Marine World and she had a great time. Located on the coast, the aquarium was bigger than we expected and we found it just the right size to spend the afternoon after we left Kinosaki Onsen.

There are several shows with various marine animals, such as seals, dolphins, and a walrus. I loved that it wasn’t that crowded, either. 

My family especially enjoyed the dolphin breeding tank on the roof where you can see a baby dolphin with its mother! 

Mother and baby dolphin at Kinosaki Marine World

Kinosaki Marine World is easily reachable by public transport or by car, and both methods only take 11 minutes from Kinosaki Onsen Station! 

Wrap-Up: Kinosaki Onsen with Kids

Kinosaki Onsen is a great place to visit with your family. Next fall or winter, I absolutely want to go back to enjoy the crab again and see if I can visit the other four onsen that I missed. I know my family feels the same way.

Personally, I like exploring a town leisurely so this is exactly how I wrote this article, just noting where to stay, onsen to visit, and what to eat. That’s what an onsen vacation is all about! Relaxing and unwinding.

I hope this article has been helpful for you if you’re planning a visit to Kinosaki Onsen with your family. And even if you weren’t planning a trip, I hope you’ve now been inspired to head to Crab Country sometime! 

 

 

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Hi! I'm Kay

I’m a long-term Japan resident and parent who loves writing and traveling. My goal is to help parents from around the world navigate living and traveling with kids in Japan.

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