Rusty Waters and Terrific Toys

When demanding to return to Japan Alex insisted on onsens. The Kansai area is not particularly well known for its onsens, but I did find that one of Japan’s most ancient onsens does lie close by at Arima, just over the mountains from Kobe and that it has retained a reputation as a well preserved town, as opposed to some overdeveloped concrete onsen resorts.

Even better was that we could get there via a cable car (funicular) and ropeway (what we often call a cable car). Back to Umeda to catch the Hankyu train towards Kobe, stopping at Rokko station.

From Rokko station we had to ask where to find bus 16 to the cable car. The goes up the mountains behind Kobe and past Kobe University. Note that they don’t seem to accept the Kansai Thru Pass, though the driver just waved us through.

Unfortunately, the cable car was closed due to a landslide, so we were directed to catch a small bus.

The bus wound itself up Mount Rokko, almost a kilometre high and due to its proximity to the coast, feeling much higher. The scenery was stunning, with wonderful views down across Kobe and thick green forest all around. B was feeling motion sick.

At the summit station of the cable car there was a curious lack of action. I could see a ropeway station nearby, but it seemed rusty and nothing moved. There were some truly awesome views across from Osaka to Kobe.

It turned out that the ropeway from this station was disused and we would have to catch a bus to the Arima Onsen ropeway on the other side of the mountain. A real pity as the views from this ropeway would have been amazing.

The bus drove us past a variety of interesting attractions before depositing us at the quiet ropeway station.

No complaints about this ropeway. We rode high above the forests of cypress and other trees, with views out far across the land. Alex’s eyes were glued to the front of the cable car while our jaws just dropped. Japan just keeps throwing up amazing experiences.

At the terminus of the ropeway there was no English guidance or marked paths for how to get to the centre of Arima Onsen. After a false start we eventually found our way down past the big and luxurious looking resort accommodations and ryokans into a town centre of narrow winding streets and interesting food smells.

We had noodles again for lunch, then despite the heat (though it was cooler here than at the coast), we took a hot bath at Kin-no-yu, with its brown waters, caused by iron oxide particulates. It’s difficult to relax in an onsen with busy Alex, but the hot water was soothing.

There is a free footbath outside, though we didn’t try that.

Just across from Kin-no-yu is the Arima Toy and Automata Museum. Japan is full of quirky museums that seem to be the product of eccentric owners, but this one was another Japanese surprise. The top floor had finely carved German toys and display items, familiar from our time in Bavaria many years ago.

The next floor down had more wooden toys, blocks and puzzles, trains. Nothing special, right? A demonstration by one of the staff members changed that impression, as she showed how simple blocks could be turned into amazing shapes and games. Alex participated, and at the end we found him in the shop trying to repeat the tricks.

Following on were the mechanical automata, models which use winders, gears and levers to perform all sorts of amusing actions. There was even a mannequin Parker from the Thunderbirds.

Finally were the Marklin trains, which I grew up with, and tin toys.

Sadly, it was time to go, no time for a bath in the “silver” radioactive waters of Gin-no-yu. Another time, perhaps, because Arima Onsen is a very attractive little town. We walked down along the river with its sculpted bed, to Arima Onsen station, for a far simpler journey back to Osaka.

It still required a couple of changes. Rather than return to Umeda, we caught the Hanshin Railway from Kobe’s Sannomiya station direct to Osaka Namba.

There were pretty evening skies and I loved watching the local life flicker by. Tiny izakayas and barber shops, little cafes and convenience stores. Ugly apartment blocks and houses. So much life squeezed in.

B and Alex insisted on another train for dinner: a sushi train. We ate a lot! Then it was time to enjoy the neon lights around Dotombori street and Shinsaibashi-Suji. It really is another world.

The night ended successfully by finding another Gokuri flavour: Grape – Apple – Orange.

Feeling very concerned by tomorrow’s flights to Taiwan and Singapore as there is yet another typhoon, Danas, which has hit Japan’s southern islands and is headed up. The effects of Typhoon Fitow on the way up were bad enough and I have no wish to experience that kind of turbulence or worse again. Have to keep an eye on any travel alerts. I can’t say that I would mind being stuck in Japan for another few days!

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