With huge snow falls all around Japan and a freezing cold wind howling across the country, it’s time to think about warming up!
And in Japan, that means it’s time for a trip to the onsen hotprings. The best onsen is always a near-deserted inn hidden far up in the mountains, preferably buried under meters of snow. For a quick and easy day trip from Kobe though, it’s hard to go past Arima.
Arima is a pleasant little onsen town with a long history. It’s definitely quite touristy (close proximity to Osaka/Kobe ensures that), but the town has done a good job of preserving a real feel of old Japan. The baths are also very good, and it’s easy to go from one onsen to another during the day.
If possible, spend a night at one of the ryokan inns in the area – definitely the nicest way to experience it. If time or budget is a factor, it’s still very nice to spend the day wandering around and sampling the waters. Budget on around ¥600 entry into most of the baths, and you can save a few yen by bringing your own towel.
Most of the baths are foreigner friendly, meaning that you’ll not only be very welcome, but that there are gentle reminders in English about appropriate etiquette for bathing. I wouldn’t worry too much if it’s your first time – there are more than enough friendly locals who’ll be pleased to help.
For those who like the numbers, the water at Arima is drawn from 180m below ground and hits the surface at 98C. The water has a high iron content (giving it a rusty brown colour) and carries all sorts of dubious-sounding health benefits.
Getting there: Personally, I think the nicest way is to hire a car with a group of friends and drive up (about 20 minutes from Kobe). You can then explore the area up at the top of the Rokko Mountains for the day, too (and drop in at Sanda Premium Outlets for some shopping!). A car rental will cost less than ¥6500 for the day, including petrol and insurance. If you’d prefer public transport, from Sannomiya take the subway to Tanigami Station (10 mins). Then, jump on the Shintestu Arima-Sanda line to Arimaguchi [有馬口], then the Arima line to Arima Onsen [有馬温泉]. The trip takes about 30 minutes in total and costs ¥900.