At the base of a scenic fall foliage valley, Arima Onsen, Japan’s most famous hot spring town , lies deep in the north of the Rokko Mountain range behind Kobe city. Located among steep 350 – 500m mountains, the narrow and winding streets run through the old town, and the intricate terrain grants the town a unique atmosphere. It is the oldest Onsen(hot spring) town in Japan, founded 1300 years ago. Since days of old, It has been well known as a timeless spa resort where Emperor, numerous famous court nobles, samurai, and other great minds visited. Although Arima has faced several natural disasters through out its long history , numerous historical temples, shrines, and houses have been fortunately preserved in the old town. After the opening of the Kobe port 150 years ago, numerous foreign visitors came up to the hot spring, and built western style hotels and facilities in the town. This eclectic style of Japanese tradition and western culture brought Arima with a unique and exotic atmosphere, which attracts visitors to the historical retreat and spa resort from all over the world. In recent years, the development of the expressway and public transportation allows for access from Sannomiya in 30 minutes, from Osaka and World Heritage site Himeji Castle in an hour, and from Kansai International Airport and Kyoto within two hours. Arima can be a tourism hub with convenient access to the nearby cities.
In the ancient era, the mythology is said that ancient gods found Arima Onsen. Japan’s oldest historical record “Nihon Shoki” described the first visit of Emperor Jomei in 631. Arima Onsen was originally established as a place of healing with the deep connection to the Buddhism culture. High monks rediscovered the place, built temples,such as Onsenji-ji famous for its national heritage Buddisum statues and guesthouses where people were allowed to stay and slowly devote time to treatment at the hot springs. These places were called “Juni-Bou”, some of which have been operated as Ryokans(Japanese authentic inn) for over 800 years, granting Arima Onsen a unique atmosphere and culture in this timeless retreat and spa throughout history. This “Toji” culture is a heart of your experience in Arima. Toji is the authentic way to enjoy hot spring, which offers a sense of health for both the body and the soul.
According to oral tradition, three injured crows bathed in the spring water in Arima, afterwards they were completely cured. Arima Onsen could see its origin from this tale of hot springs, providing a cure for any injuries and sickness. Among other hot springs in Japan, the quality of spring water here is very unique, It is not of volcanic origin. The spring water rises out of cracks in the underground bedrock from the active Earth’s mantle, therefore it contains full of natural blessings or active ingredients. “Kinsen (golden hot spring)” is a golden brown color water loaded with salts and iron (the highest salt concentration in Japan), and possesses excellent moisturizing and warming effects, it prevents after-bath chills, and is said to be effective against joint and skin disease. “Ginsen (silver hot spring)” can be further classified into two types. One is the carbonate spring which helps circulation. The other is the radioactive spring which contains the rare metal radon. By inhaling the steam of this spring, its radioactive effects throughout the tissues of the body, and enhances natural healing power of human.
Party with geisha, is another factor other than hot-spring cure that the tourists coming to Arima Onsen are expecting to have fun. Arima Onsen is the only hot-spring street in Hyogo which geisha still work actively in the modern days. Geisha usually operate in various hotels and ryokans in Arima Onsen, performing songs, dances, and shamisen which fits the seasons to liven up the party. The tourists are also able to enjoy traditional games from centuries before with geisha. There is no doubt it’ll be the funnest party with laughters and smiles all over. In order for the tourists to have the most fun, geisha work very hard on their singing and dancing lessons. While walking through the back alleys of Arima, it’s not very surprising if you hear the sound of shamisen or taiko when they’re practicing. You may enjoy watching the geisha dances during Arima Onsen’s seasonal event, the “Sakura Festival(Sakura Matsuri)” and “Arima Breezing River Party(Arima Ryofu Kawazashiki)”, and even participate with geisha in “Arima Summer Festival(Arima Natsu Matsuri)” in the beginning of August. Why not enjoy the cool traditional culture of Japan at Arima Onsen?