Kinosaki Onsen, Japan’s Best Hot Spring Town, is celebrating its 1,300th anniversary this year. The charming village, known for its serene ambiance and its authentic old Japan allure, has been a local favourite since the 8th century when hot springs were discovered in the area.
And whilst wellness and relaxation have remained the obvious drawcards luring local and international visitors every year, Visit Kinosaki points out that the Kinosaki Onsen experience is about way more than simple wellness pleasures.
“Kinosaki Onsen is so much more than just a hot spring town. The town’s 1,300 years of history can be felt at every turn, from the quaint willow-lined streets, its original architecture and heritage to the unique traditions of the locals – it’s a place that will make you step back in time” says Alison Roberts-Brown, former long-term Japan resident and Director of Tourism Garden, representative of Visit Kinosaki in Australia.
The history of Kinosaki Onsen began with a Buddhist monk named Dochi Shonin who travelled the country to help the suffering and ill. His travels eventually brought him to Kinosaki Onsen, where he was instructed by the local oracle to pray for 1,000 days to save the people from suffering. On the 1,000th day, hot spring water came forth. This hot spring water soon became famous throughout the region and the country for its incredible healing powers. Eventually, word reached the emperor of the time. After confirming the authenticity of Kinosaki’s onsen, he gave the title of Guardian Temple of Kinosaki Onsen to the temple erected by Dochi Shonin for the protection of Kinosaki, its hot spring waters, and its people. This temple, called Onsenji Temple, houses a designated national treasure that is only fully displayed once every 33 years for three years at a time (Juichimen Kanzeon Bosatsu or 11-faced goddess of compassion and mercy in English) and can currently be seen on display in the temple until April 2021.
For the 1300th anniversary, various facilities throughout Kinosaki Onsen are offering special events/items, including special menus at select restaurants, a stamp rally, and limited-edition sake & sweets.
There are very few onsen in Japan that are as old as Kinosaki and have an actual recorded founding date. Kinosaki has been found noted in various historical documents that can authenticate its founding date to 720 AD.
Every year on April 23rd and 24th, a festival called Onsen Festival is held to commemorate Dochi Shonin. The Buddhist monks from Onsenji Temple walk around town to each of the seven public onsen to pray for safety and prosperity of Kinosaki Onsen. This year, due to the coronavirus, just one of these monks performed the rituals at each onsen. In addition to praying to Dochi Shonin, he included a prayer regarding the coronavirus, praying for it to cease soon.
While COVID-19 is keeping folks around the world at home, Visit Kinosaki will be posting photos and videos, as well as live videos of the area in a new corner called ‘Virtual Travel’ on Visit Kinosaki’s Facebook and Instagram pages, so that you can virtually travel while the world is navigating towards a brighter future. Kinosaki Onsen and Toyooka City have been preparing to make the return to travel as safe as possible with new guidelines and efforts. When the time is right to travel again, Visit Kinosaki would love for you to come and celebrate the town’s anniversary.
For more information, visit https://visitkinosaki.com/