Honshu

Kinosaki

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Kinosaki is a picturesque little town on the north cost of Kansai. Getting there’s a bit of a trek, but your journey is rewarded by some beautiful canals, several excellent onsen and tasty seafood. I visited, largely by accident, in late 2011.

Kinosaki is a huge domestic tourist draw, and you can see why: it’s full of onsen ryokan (all rather expensive), as well as several public onsen. I took a walk down by the water, then ate probably the best sashimi I’ve ever had for about £15 – look for a place on the left as you walk from the JR station: it looks cheap, with photos of every dish, the name begain with Dai (大).

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But Kinosaki is all about the onsen. I visited Gosho-no-yu (御所の湯, details here), which is on the further of the two main streets from the JR station, and has a rather grand front. Cost is around 1000Y if you need to rent towels, and it’s nice: an indoor bath, a sauna, and two smallish outdoor baths with a lovely view up a waterfall into the forest behind.

And speaking of the forest; up behind the town is a cable-car (or, in Japan, “ropeway” – if there is a non-loan-word for one I’ve yet to see it used) that takes you up the hill to an overlook of the town – although when I visited it was showing no signs of going anywhere, so I hiked up the hill instead – there’s a path. It’s a decent walk, but you get a nice view. Maybe take the cable-car up and walk down.

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Towards the evening the town fills up, and ryokan customers clip-clop around town from bath to bath in yukata and sandals. If you can afford it, I’d recommend staying the night to check out more baths. As everywhere had been booked, I jumped on a late limited express – this time of the amazingly preserved 1970s variety –out of town and back to Fukuchiyama.

Fukuchiyama

Fukuchiyama is a reasonably sized city north-west of Kyoto. It is not, it’s fair to say, an international tourist draw – but having managed one of those errors where you fail to book anywhere to stay on the one night where every hotel in Kyoto fills up, I found myself there for one night.

As I arrived in town I spotted a striking castle to one side of the tracks. I dropped my rucksack at the hotel and took a walk through the town to find it.

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The Fukuchiyama Shiro is maybe 20mins from the station in the opposite direction, and up a big hill. It’s open as a museum, and worth going inside for the views from the top alone. Inside there are various exhibits (Samurai armour, etc), and some rather amazing old painted scrolls. All signage is in Japanese, and I’m not sure any or much English is spoken, but they do have an English tourism map for the area. Castle aside, it suggests some visits to nature sites outside the town.

Getting There, Staying There

Fukuchiyama is on, appropriately, the Fukuchiyama Main Line train from Osaka. Change at Fukuchiyama onto the Sanin Main Line for Kinosaki. There are limited express trains on both.

If you can afford it, I’d imagine that the onsen ryokan in Kinosaki would be a great place to kick off your shoes for the evening – but none looked anywhere near cheap. Instead I hopped on a (completely deserted) Limited Express train back to Fukuchiyama, where there’s a shiny new Sunroute business hotel just by the railway tracks.