After one day of soaking in onsen and feeling utterly refreshed from our ryokan stay, we were able to use our restored energy to explore the rest of this pretty little town. I noticed a ropeway at the end of the town and we made our way there, taking in the beautiful and serene sights around us.
Before reaching the Ropeway: A short rest at Onsenji Temple Gate
The ropeway goes all the way up to Mount Taishi (大師山). As it had been quite a fair bit of walk, and we still had to climb up a hill to the ropeway station, we took a short respite at the front of Onsenji temple gate located at the foot of the mountain.
There is a shrine at the entrance of the temple gate, stunning wooden structure with florid dragon carvings. This is the Yakushido Hall, where you can see displays of the temple’s past miracles, wooden canes. As the onsen waters here have legendary healing powers, many suffering from mobility impairment had made their way to the onsen town and were miraculously cured by the onsen’s healing waters. At the end of their stay, they would leave their canes in the temple as evidence of their cure and also as a form of gratitude to the restorative abilities of the onsen waters.
A quick, fun snack : Onsen Eggs
There is a small cafe that sells some food and onsen tamago (温泉卵 “hot spring egg”). It was the first time I had seen how onsen eggs were traditionally made, and certainly made for an unforgettable experience. The egg was also one of the freshest I had eaten, and I actually had it plain.
What is interesting about an onsen egg is that it is the reverse of a half-boiled egg. Instead of a cooked egg white and uncooked yolk, you will get an uncooked egg white and cooked yolk with the onsen egg preparation. The egg white is soft and silky and the egg yolk is firm but custardy, retaining the texture and deep rich colour of a raw egg yolk.
Up up and away in Kinosaki Onsen Ropeway
Finally, we were recharged and climbed up the stairs to the ropeway station. The ropeway stops at two stations, the Onsenji Station (温泉寺駅) and the Mountain Top Station (山頂駅). There are both round-trip tickets and one-way tickets. We were too tired to hike and just simply purchased the round-trip tickets for the mountain-top station at 900 yen. In the past, visitors had to climb up to the Onsenji main temple to pray for blessings before they could enter any hot springs. After praying, they would receive a hot spring ladle that served as permission for entry into the sacred hot springs. Fortunately for us, we have the ropeway now and don’t need to make the arduous climb. Also, no need to pray before entering the hot springs! If we had to head to the temple first I think we would be bone-tired after the prayer to visit any hot spring on our first day. Though in retrospect, it might be truly therapeutic to soak in the hot springs after such an exhausting hike.
The main temple is located at the intermediate station, Onsenji Station, midway up the ropeway. At the temple grounds, there is a particularly gorgeous kannon statue plated in gold standing tall on deliberately carved boulders. Strangely, one of the trees had red leaves making it appear like fall though it was June, and it made the temple appear even more enchanting. I can totally imagine just how picturesque it would be in autumn, when the kannon statue shines a warm gold amongst a foliage of fiery red and yellow.
At the summit there is an observation deck from which one can have a breathtaking panoramic view of the Kinosaki town as well as Maruyama River and Sea of Japan. This view is awarded one star in the Michelin Green Guide in Japan as spectacular view, and it certainly deserves that one star.