The winding and narrow streets of Arima Onsen offer a glimpse into the Japan of yesteryear.
Indeed, this hot spring spa resort, one of the most famous nationwide, boasts over a thousand years of history and has hosted emperors, aristocrats, samurai and more in its time.
Nowadays, Arima is just as hospitable, with numerous stayover choices, a compact and easily walkable town center, and natural beauty all year round.
The hot water naturally emerging from the ground comes in two main varieties. ‘Kinsen’ (literally ‘gold source water’), rich in iron with a rusty reddish-brown color to match, is said to ease skin ailments and muscle pain. Meanwhile, the colorless ‘Ginsen’ (‘silver water’) contains radium and carbonate and is said to cure various muscle and joint ailments.
The most famous Arima hot springs are the ‘Kin-no-Yu’ (Gold Bath) and ‘Gin-no-Yu’ (Silver Bath) bathing complexes, either of which can be enjoyed for under 1000 yen. First-time bathers may be surprised at the temperature of 42-44 degrees Celsius, but you can warm yourself up with a public outdoor footbath next to Kin-no-Yu.
It’s free of charge – just don’t forget to bring your own towel! Most larger hotels also have their own on-site hot spring and day-use plans.
In addition to hot springs, ryokans and fine-dining, however, Arima Onsen has even more cultural delights on offer.
Geiko are traditional Japanese female entertainers who add sparkle to wide-ranging social occasions with their unique artistry and lively culture, and Arima Onsen is one of the only hot spring resorts nationwide housing these remarkable and talented performers.
You can expect singing and dancing, often accompanied by a shamisen (Japanese banjo) performance and centuries-old party games guaranteed to make anyone smile. The geiko in Arima dance during seasonal events, including the Sakura Festival (Sakura Matsuri) in spring, the Arima Summer Festival in early August, and the Arima Dai-Chakai tea ceremony in early November.
Geiko performances can also be enjoyed at the special geiko café over light snacks and tea or coffee.