On the northern slopes of Rokkō-san, northeast of Kōbe, is one of Japan’s oldest hot-spring resorts, ARIMA ONSEN (有馬温泉). Since the seventh century AD, Arima has been famous for attracting emperors, shoguns and, in more modern times, the literati, all of whom have come to bathe in its gold and silver waters. It’s even mentioned in the ancient chronicle the Nihonshoki. Hideyoshi Toyotomi brought the tea master Sen no Rikyu here in the sixteenth century to perform a tea ceremony, an event commemorated annually in November with the Arima Great Tea Ceremony. Arima has two kinds of mineral-rich hot springs, both recognized for their health benefits – the sludgy brown ginsen (gold spring) and the clear kinsen (silver spring) waters are believed to be effective for curing everything from rheumatism to high blood pressure, as well as improving appetite.

There are some top-class ryokan in Arima, where you can soak yourself in luxury on an overnight trip. However, if you can only visit Arima by day, you should take a dip in the public baths. The Kin no Yu public bath (金の湯) is five minutes’ walk uphill from the train station, close to the bus station and tourist information office. Here you can relax in the kinsen waters, at the source, in a modern bathhouse. Outside there is a free footbath area, as well as a fountain of drinkable spa water. Heading up the Negai-zaka slope, lined with lots of small wooden ryokan and shops selling local crafts, you’ll find the Gin no Yu public bath (銀の湯) at the top, just past Nenbutsu-ji temple. Gin no Yu is much quieter than Kin no Yu and has a high ceiling with skylights; the light streaming in through the mist is mesmerizing. For more than double the price, it is also possible to visit the spas of some of Arima’s ryokan and hotels, but opening days and times depend on the season. Check at the tourist information office to find out which private spas you can enter.

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