3 Must-tries on Arima Hot Spring & Kobe Food

A Japanese inn of Arima hot spring and Kobe beef on a plate
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Must-Try 1: Experience Gold and Silver Hot Spring at Arima

Arima Onsen

The signboard of Arima onsen station

Arima Onsen (hot spring) in Kobe is well known as one of the oldest onsen in Japan with more than 1300 years of history. It is easy to get there from the center of Kobe by a train of Kobe Electric Railway which takes about 20 minutes.

Arima river and rokans(traditional Japanese Inn)

Actually, volcanic activity is not present in Arima. The reason for the hot springs, then, lies in crustal activity. The seawater drawn in when the Philippine Sea Plate subducted into the Japanese archipelago was heated by geothermal energy 60 kilometers underground, and this is what is gushing out as hot springs.

Such hot springs are almost unprecedented in the world. Arima onsen is seawater that is 6 million years old.

Arima onsen contains seven of the nine components designated by the Japanese government as medical care springs which are rare in the world.

Gold and Silver Hot Spring

There are two types of hot springs in Arima onsen: Kin-sen (gold spring) and Gin-sen (silver spring).

Source of kinsen

“Kinsen” is a hot spring with a high iron and salt content with the distinctive reddish-brown color made by oxidization of iron that has been used since ancient times. The salt, iron, and other components are dissolved out of plate components.

The hot water, which has a higher salt content than seawater, creates a thin film that envelops the skin, and the moisturizing effect continues even after getting out of the hot spring.

One of the sources of kinsen is seen in the above picture.

Tansansen Gensen Koen(carbonated spring park)

On the other hand, “Ginsen” is mainly classified into two which are carbonated springs and radon springs.

Water gushed out of the plate releases carbon dioxide gas. The reaction between this carbon dioxide gas and groundwater produces silver springs. It is said to improve blood flow.

The above picture is for Tansangen Park where you can find carbonated spring is gushed out.

The building of Kin-sen (gold spring) and Gin-sen (silver spring)

Some onsen ryokan (traditional Japanese Inn) have gold spring, some have silver spring, and some have both. If the onsen ryokan you stay at has only either one of gold or silver spring, you can use public onsen “Kin-no-yu”(the above left) for gold spring or “Gin-no-yu”(the above right) for silver spring at reasonable price.

For more information about Kin-no-yu and Gin-no-yu, please see the website of Kin-no-yu and Gin-no-yu from here.

Walking in Arima Onsen Town

Public use onsen for foot

There are free “footbaths” in town. Just a 15-minute soak will make you feel warm all over. I would definitely like you to try it. You can enjoy the footbath near Kin-no-yu for free.

Arima onsen town where many small stores standing along an alleyway

Narrow alleyways spread across the town. It is really fun to explore the town where you can find many small restaurants and souvenir stores.

Arima Cider

A bottle of Arima cider and a glass on a tray

Carbonated springs were once feared to be poisonous water, as birds and insects that approached them would become immobile. However, its usefulness was proven in the early Meiji period (1868-1912), and since then it has been used for drinking and processed into souvenirs.

Thus, Arima cider was born as the first cider in Japan. The cider label reads, “Carbonated water, feared as poison, is the origin of Japanese cider”, and is designed with an illustration of a cannon because of the way the lid popped off when opened, which looked like a cannon.

The carbonation for Arima cider is so strong that it causes a “burp” when drunk. On the other hand, it has slight sweetness and is good to stop thirst after enjoying onsen.

Tansan Senbei

Some tansan senbei (crackers made with carbonated water) are on a plate

Another example making use of carbonated springs is tansan senbei (cracker made with carbonated water). The crispy texture and subtle sweetness are the characteristics of tansan senbei. The tansan senbei made with carbonated water is said to be crispier than those made with plain water.

Originally, tansan senbei is simple sweet snacks made of flour and sugar etc., but recently we have matcha tansan senbei mixed with matcha powder and tansan cream senbei which sandwiches vanilla or strawberry cream between tansan senbeis.

Must-Try 2: Savor Kobe Beef in Sukiyaki & Shabu-shabu

Kobe Beef

Marbled Kobe beef and vegetables in a kitchen

Kobe beef is a rare breed of Tajima beef produced in Hyogo Prefecture that has been carefully selected to meet certain standards in terms of growing environment and meat quality. Only 5500 cattle are selected for Kobe beef per year.

“Sashi” refers to the fat content within the red-colored muscle fibers. One of the characteristics of Kobe beef is its “Marbling” where there are many fine sashi. Tajima beef has many fine sashi because of its fine muscle fibers.

3 sliced beef steak is on a plate

You must try Kobe beef steak when you come to Kobe. Savor the juicy meat part and aromatic sashi (fat content) which is exquisite! Kobe beef’s sashi has a lower melting point than that of other Wagyu beef, so that it melts on your tongue.

Beef steak being cooked on a hot plate

There are many restaurants where you can eat Kobe beef steak. Typical one is steak house or teppanyaki restaurant. Some of them are operated by butcher’s stores. Of course you can eat it in restaurants in hotels.

Sukiyaki and Shabu-shabu

In the United States and Europe, people eat beef steak but do not eat thinly sliced beef so often unlike Asians. Thinly sliced beef has different taste and texture which is well mixed with sauce. It is a good opportunity to try Sukiyaki and Shabu-shabu which is typical beef cuisine to use thinly sliced beef in Japan.

Sukiyaki

Sukiyaki being cooked in a nabe (hot pot)
Sukiyaki dipped in beaten egg

The way of cooking sukiyaki is different between Kanto region* and Kansai region**. In the Kanto region, first, boil warishita (a seasoning liquid made of soy sauce, sake (Japanese rice wine), sugar, and Japanese soup stock) in a pot and simmer beef and vegetables together while, in the Kansai region, the beef is first grilled in a pot with beef fat, then seasoned with sugar and soy sauce, and the vegetables are added later, using the water from the vegetables to simmer them.

Both the sukiyaki is eaten with beaten eggs. The beef seasoned sweet and salty with soy sauce, sake and sugar etc. goes well with the beaten egg making it into mellow flavor.

* Eastern part of Japan consists of Tokyo and the surrounding area **Western part of Japan consists of Osaka and the surrounding area

Shabu-shabu

Shabu-shabu in the cooking process
Shabu-shabu being dipped in sesame sauce

For shabu-shabu, very thin slices of beef are dipped in the boiling broth in a short time without removed from chopsticks to cook, and then dipped into ponzu (Japanese sauce made of soy sauce and citrus juice) or sesame sauce to eat.

 For more information about sukiyaki and shabu-shabu, please check it from here: “8 Japanese Foods to Learn About” / “Sukiyaki & Shabu-shabu”

Must-Try 3: Savor Kobe Local Foods

There are many local foods in Kobe which most of the visitors from abroad do not know.

Akashi-yaki

Many akashiyaki(octopus dumplings) on a tray

Akashiyaki is a round shaped snack, and bite-sized octopus is wrapped in egg and flour dough. It is also called tamagoyaki (tamago ball) in Kobe and surrounding areas because of its light-yellow color and gentle egg flavor.

Akashiyaki(octopus dumplings) in a dipping sauce

Akashiyaki is eaten dipped in dashi (Japanese soup stock). The taste of the egg matches the taste of the dashi and it is very tasty.

Akashiyaki is round shaped and filled with octopus which is similar to takoyaki. Actually, the birth story of takoyaki is related to akashiyaki. For more information about takoyaki and akashiyaki, please check it from here: “8 Japanese Foods to Learn About” / “Okonomiyaki & Takoyaki”

Yaki-gyoza with Miso Dipping Sauce

Gyoza(dumpling) lifted with chopsticks

Yaki-gyoza (pan-fried dumplings) is very popular cuisine in Japan and it is usually eaten with dipping sauce consists of soy sauce, chili oil and vinegar.

Gyoza(dumpling) with soy-sauce-based dipping sauce and miso dipping sauce

When you go to a ramen shop or a gyoza specialty restaurant in Kobe, you can find miso based dipping sauce which consists of miso(soy bean paste), sugar, vinegar, garlic, ground toasted sesame seeds and so on. (the above on the right, while the left is soy based one)

You can use the miso-based dipping sauce alone, however, using the miso based sauce mixed with soy sauce and chili sauce is highly recommended.

Bokkake

Bokkake(traditional Kobe food )on a plate

“Bokkake” is a dish of beef tendon and konjac simmered in a sweet and spicy sauce made of soy sauce, sake, mirin (sweet sake), and other seasonings. It was created after World War II, when food was in short supply, as a way to eat beef sinew that had been discarded because of its toughness.

“Bokkake” comes from “Bukkake” which means to pour something on top of something. People in Kobe often poured the cooked beef tendon and konjac on top of udon noodles. That is the origin of “Bokkake”.

Bukkake udon(Japanese thick noodles) and bukkake okonomiyaki

Most are eaten on top of udon noodles (the above left) or mixed into okonomiyaki (above right).

For more information about okonomiyaki, please check it from here: “8 Japanese Foods to Learn About” / “Okonomiyaki & Takoyaki”

Advice & Recommendations from a Native Japanese

Enjoy the Beautiful Night View of Kobe

After enjoying Arima Onsen hot springs, it is fun to walk around the town of Arima Onsen. Another option is to enjoy a night view of Kobe.

A beautiful view from Rokko ropeway

With 12 minutes ride of ropeway from Arima Onsen station of Rokko-Arima Ropeway to Rokko Sancho station, the magnificent scenery of city of Kobe waits for you. (Note that the Arima Onsen station of the ropeway and the Arima Onsen station of the Kobe Electric Railway are different stations!)

For more information about the Rokko-Arima ropeway, please see the website of Rokko-Arima ropeway from here.

A beautiful night view of Kobe from Maya Mountain

As the sun sets and the sky gradually darkens, the lights gradually go on, creating a beautiful scene that you cannot miss.

Cooking of Bokkake at Home

As already mentioned, bokkake is a local food that Kobe is proud of, and why not try making it at home?

Bokkake Recipe

Preparation of Beef Tendon and Konjac
Diced beef and konjak

Cut 3.5 oz(100g) of beef tendon and 2 oz(60g) of konjac into bite-size.

Put beef tendon in water and boil it. Lower the heat when it boils and keep cooking for 5 minutes. Rinse it off excess fat well with water.

Cook konjac in a boiling water for a couple of minutes.

Boiling of Beef Tendon to Soften
Cooking process of beef tendon

Slice small quantity(5g) of ginger and 1 oz (30g) of Japanese leek (or green onion).

Put boiled beef tendon, sliced ginger and Japanese leek (green onion) in a pot and add enough water to cover them all.

When it boils, lower the heat and cook over a slow fire for 1 hour. When the water is lowered and the ingredients are just above the surface of the waterer, add small quantity of water so that water covers the ingredients.

Drain the hot water in a colander and pick up only the beef tendon.

Cooking of Beef Tendon and Konjac
Diced beef tendon and konjac being cooked in a pot

Put boiled beef tendon and konjac in a small pot.

Mix 5floz(150ml) of water, 1 Tbsp(15ml) of soy sauce, 1 Tbsp(15ml) of mirin (sweet sake), 2 tsp(10ml) of sake (Japanese rice wine) and 1 tsp (4g) of sugar, and put it into the pot. By using the small pot, water cover the ingredients with smaller quantity of water.

When it boils, lower the heat and cook over a slow fire for 30minutes with the cover of a kitchen towel enabling the ingredients to absorb the flavor. When the water is lowered and the ingredients are just above the surface of the water, add small quantity of water so that water covers the ingredients.

When the water becomes about one third of the amount, stop cooking and leave it for another 30 minutes to absorb the flavor.

Completion of Bokkake
Bokkake, Kobe soul food consisting of beef tendon and konjac seasoned with soy sauce etc., in a bowl

Put sliced green onion on the bokkake, and bokkake for a person is ready!

Bokkake-don (Bokkake Rice Bowl)

Bokkake-don(rice bowl topped with beef tendon and konjac seasoned with soy sauce and other Japanese seasonings)

Bokkake-don is another popular menu as well. Put bokkake over cooked rice to make bokkake-don.  It is often served with a raw egg in Japan, however, a raw egg is not always necessary. Raw eggs are often used as topping for a variety of cuisines in Japan.

For more information about raw egg, please check it from here: “8 Japanese Foods to Learn About” / “Raw Egg over Rice — Tamago Kake Gohan (TKG)”

Access Information

To Go to Arima Onsen

Right in front of Arima Onsen station of Kobe Electric Railway

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To Go to Arima Onsen Station of Rokko-Arima Ropeway

17 minutes on foot or 3 minutes by taxi from Arima Onsen station of Kobe Electric Railw

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