Can't shake those winter doldrums? Feeling a bit *ahem* crabby from the cold? Then it's time to plan a trip to Kinosaki Onsen to luxuriate in their soul-soothing hot springs and chow down on their famous Matsuba crab. Wash down that crab with a glass or two of the local sake, and those winter blues will be long gone!
Kinosaki Onsen in Hyogo prefecture along the coast of the Sea of Japan is one of the top onsen (hot spring) destinations in Japan's Kansai region. It is situated in a beautiful natural setting, and the town of Kinosaki itself, built along a willow-lined river, has an old-world ambience that charms all visitors.
There are a number of hot springs in Kinosaki, but the most famous are the public baths, of which there are seven, each with a different character. These seven baths can be visited via use of a "yumepa" or "public bath-hopping pass" which lets you visit as often as you like for a very reasonable fee (Adult - 1,200 yen). The passes are available at any of the public baths. Since all the baths are within walking distance of each other, you can easily "hop" from one to the other. A bit of shopping in the town's quaint shopping area is a pleasant diversion after you've noticed your fingers and toes getting a bit pruney from all that hot water!
Spending time in Kinosaki is a wonderful way to unwind, and getting there can be just as pleasant! A 2 1/2 hour train ride from Osaka, or 4 1/2 hour trip from Tokyo may seem a bit lengthy, but you can purchase delicious box lunches and snacks to take on board, and while you eat you can enjoy the changing scenery outside your window as you glide from urban to rural vistas. Your feet will be on Kinosaki soil before you know it.
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If the dear reader is anything like yours truly, you occasionally get a craving for crab. There is no better place to fulfill that hankering than Kinosaki, where you can indulge in the famous matsuba crabs. Matsuba crab is the local name for the male snow crab, caught in the Tajima region (the area situated in the north of Hyogo prefecture). Tajima is about as large as Tokyo, and this is where the largest amount of matsuba crabs are loaded.
Matsuba crabs are in season from November to March. How to enjoy this winter delicacy? There is crab shabu-shabu, crab and vegetable hot pot, boiled crab dipped in kanimiso, or with a dipping sauce of soy sauce, sugar and vinegar, baked crab gratin, raw crab sashimi enjoyed with soy sauce, etc. Crab aficionados appreciate matsuba crab all by its lonesome, so as to savor the sweet, firm, wonderfully textured flesh to the fullest.
So, whether you've got a craving for crustaceans or a desire to luxuriate in relaxing and distinctive baths (or both), Kinosaki won't disappoint!
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