Arima Onsen (有馬温泉), although famous in Japan for being the oldest onsen (hot spring) town with its rich 1300 year old history, the town is not that well known with foreign travelers compared to Hakone Onsen in the Kanto region.
This small onsen town is located near Rokko Mountain located in Arima town in the Kita ward of Kobe and lends itself for the perfect day trip or an overnight stay. Arima Onsen is counted as, together with Ehime's Dogo Onsen and Wakayama's Shirahama Onsen, one of Japan's "Three Ancient Springs". Another unique fact about Arima onsen is that the onsen in this town are not volcanic like many other sources in Japan.
The onsen sources of Arima Onsen consist of two sources, the golden source and the silver source. The golden source, the Kinsen (金泉) that actually is "gold" (goldish brown) of color, consists of salt and iron that oxidizes when it rises out of the ground. The water of the golden source is said to benefit backaches, muscle pains, circulation and moisturizes and heals the skin.
The silver source, the Ginsen (銀泉), is clear of color and contains radon elements and carbonate. This source is said to benefit the immune system, blood flow, and helps with rheumatism and menopausal disorders. Both the sources are told to be good for both skin and health.
Below are some places to visit and enjoy the healing water of the two sources that flow through Arima town in Kobe. In the town there are only two bathhouses, but there are plenty of ryokan that come with onsen and allow one day visits as well.
Kin no Yu
One of the two bathhouses in Arima Onsen, operated by Kobe City, Kin no Yu utilizes the golden spring. It is located in the center of the town, featuring two indoor baths of varying temperatures for both genders. There are free to use foot baths and a drinking fountain with thermal water outside the bath house.
Prices: 650 yen per adult. 340 yen per child.
Operating hours: 8:00 - 22:00 (Closed every 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month)
Gin no Yu
The second of the two bathhouses operated by Kobe City in the town. This bath house utilizes the silver source which contains carbonated water and radon elements. This bath house has one large bath for each gender, water jets and a sauna are included.
Admission: 550 yen per adult. 340 yen per child.
Operating hours: 9:00 - 21:00 (Closed every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month)
Taiko no Yu
Taiko no Yu, part of the Arima view hotel houses one of the largest modern hot spring facilities in the town. It features a variety of indoor and outdoor baths filled with both of Arima's sources' water. Two large baths, a steam room, outdoor baths and individual hot tubs. The onsen also comes with massage services, restaurants, shops and rest areas. Further expenses during the day can be paid through a wristband you get when you pay the entry fee, the wristband is a locker key as well.
There are two onsen baths and a steam room on the lower floor which are both indoors. The outdoor onsen baths are on the upper floor for which you have to walk up to with the wooden stairs. There are three baths outdoor and a few individual hot tubs and some deck chairs available for resting.
Admission: 2400 yen (2600 yen on weekends and holidays)
Operating hours: 10:00 - 23:00
Arima Onsen Tocen Goshobo
Tocen Goshobo is a classic ryokan established in 1191. As many other ryokan do, the onsen can be visited during the day without having to stay overnight as well. After bathing one can enjoy a free cup of tea from the tea dispenser in the tatami area just outside the dressing room.
In the lobby you will find a relaxing area with two kotatsu tables. Arima Onsen Tocen Goshobo is located a 5-minute walk from Arima Onsen Station on the Kobe Electric Railway.
Admission: 1575 yen per person.
Operating hours: 11:00 - 18:00
This traditional ryokan consists of three buildings and has one large bath: the main building located right next to Arima River, the annex building that looks out over Arima Onsen Town, and a deluxe suite building, the Hibiscus Cottage. In the Hibiscus Cottage has very luxurious guest rooms that come with their own cypress open air baths. Arima Gyoen also serves some very luxurious dishes made with the famous regional specialty, Kobe beef.
Admission: 1,100 yen per person
Operating hours: 5:00 - 0:30
How to get there?
When going to Arima Onsen by car, it is a 1 hour car ride from Osaka and around 30 minutes from Kobe. When going by train from Kobe to Arima Onsen, go to the Sannomiya bus terminal and purchase the JR Kousoku bus (高速バス) ticket that takes you straight to Arima. At Shin-Osaka and Shin-Kobe you can also take an express bus to get there.