Arima Gyoen: Central Hotel Near Historic Onsen

Review of Arima Gyoen | Kita-ku Arima-cho 1296
  • Trip101 Review

The Japanese love a good onsen and have for centuries. In ancient times one would have to camp out at an onsen, but nowadays there are places like Arima Gyoen where one can stay. This modern hotel with 77 guest rooms is a complete package. Guests only need to pick a room type. I recommend the traditional tatami mat with futons for beds. Once you have chosen your room unpack and unwind.

A room with a view

A room with a view
Source: Kurt Jacobson

Rooms come with excellent amenities like a fridge, tea making amenities, yukata (robe), slippers, Wi-Fi, room service, and panoramic views of the Arima River which flows by the side of the hotel. Be sure and request a ‘view room’ to take advantage of seeing the distant mountain peaks and hearing the river song. Most rooms come with futons for a bed. If you require a raised bed, be sure and request this in advance as only a few of their rooms have this option. Consider booking your stay to include the dinner or breakfast add-on to keep your stay convenient. Even though there are a few restaurants nearby, I recommend taking your meals on site as the food was delicious.

With a central location, Arima Gyoen is easy to walk to from the bus station, or take advantage of the available free parking facilities and drive here. If you arrive before check-in time I recommend a walk to explore the shops, tea houses, and Arima River to pass the time. Once it’s time to check-in, the best thing to do is put on a yukata and head to the hotel’s onsen. A soothing soak in these healing waters has been popular for hundreds of years. The philosopher Hayashi Razan wrote of Arima some 500 years ago when he listed Japan’s top three onsen. Even in the 1600s, it was quite special to be noted as one of Japan’s top three onsen.

In-room dining

arima gyoen: central hotel near historic onsen | in-room dining
Source: Kurt Jacobson

After your first soak, consider taking advantage of a massage (for a fee) before dinner. The hotel has a spa, so you don’t have to leave for the premises for your massage services. If you planned correctly, a kaiseki dinner would be set up in your room, at your requested time. A room with dinner included cost about 400 USD for two. Most of these seasonally inspired meals are around 14 courses of fabulous regional cuisine.

Beer, wine, and sake can be ordered for additional fees to complement your meal. Arima Gyoen has the rights to serve the real Kobe beef. Your dinner will most likely include a Kobe beef sukiyaki, sushi, cooked fish, pickled vegetables, rice, and dessert. All of this wonderful traditional Japanese cuisine is served on beautifully decorated dinnerware. For Americans like me, this is one of the most memorable meals ever in Japan.

A walk along the Arima River

Arima River Park
Source: Kurt Jacobson

If you can summon up the energy after dinner, take a stroll on the river-walk enjoying the meditative sounds of rushing water. It’s not a good idea to soak in the hot springs after a big meal or drinking alcohol, so a short walk in the mountain air is a wise choice. Speaking of the hot springs pools; there are separate rooms for men and women. Like most Japanese hot springs the pools are segregated due to nude bathing. Guests can opt for a private hot springs room if desired. Just check with the front desk for additional fees and availability.

Sites nearby worth seeing

arima gyoen: central hotel near historic onsen | sites nearby worth seeing
Source: Kurt Jacobson

While most visitors come to Arima solely for the hot springs, there are other things to do. A stroll about this tiny town will reward the intrepid traveler with a hidden waterfall that has a small shrine nearby and carved writing in the rock wall. The shops sell local foods, whether to eat onsite or take home, and there’s even a rare tatami mat manufacturer. I poked my head in their shop to observe the process and asked if I could photograph the process. The Arima Toy museum and shop is worth a stop for both families with kids or adults who want to tap into their inner-child.

Check with Arima Onsen Information Center for other places of interest like the Osenji Temple, Tanasangen Park, Arimaonsen Iyashi no Forest, and other points of interest to complete your visit. If you need an English speaking staff member, don’t be bashful about asking for one. During my recent trip to Japan, I asked for this often. The problem is, sometimes the person you ask say they speak English but they don’t understand English very well. When I took the time to ask for someone who spoke English better I got good results on most occasions.

If you go

If you go, I recommend taking the bus. I rode the Hankyu Bus from Kyoto for around 35 USD. This 70-minute bus ride was comfortable and scenic. Reserving your room is easy on and the link is listed below. Although there are hundreds of onsen in Japan to choose from, I think Arima deserves the top three billing Hayashi Razan gave it over 500 years ago.

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