Nestled in a valley just over the Rokko Mountains, Arima Onsen makes a wonderful day-trip from Kobe or Osaka. Busses run (in both directions) from Hankyu Ashiya and JR Ashiyagawa stations, and the Kobe Dentetsu (railway) terminates there, but a hike over the Rokko Mountain front range makes a soak all that more rewarding. The hike is fairly steep initially, but Japanese octogenarians do it regularly. There are views over the dense industrial paradise of Amagasaki and Osaka bay, and clear days bring into focus the islands and high mountains of Wakayama. At the top of Rokko mountain there is a very average curry-rice/udon shop for the hungry and lunch-less. Once in Arima a dip costs between 350 yen at the public bath to 1500 at a top-end resort. Meals are availabe for a variety of prices, as is accommodation. While an overnight stay at an Onsen can be an extremely rewarding experience, Arima, with it's close proximity to Kobe and Osaka, can be crowded. If the price is going to be paid (and Arima tends to be more expensive than other more Onsens), there are far more ideal locations along the Japan Sea (north Hyogo, Tottori prefectures) and on Shikoku.
HOW TO GET TO THE HIKE: Take the Hankyu Osaka/Kobe line to Hankyu Ashiyagawa station. From there follow the signs to Rokko Mountain and the Rock Garden. For those interested, along the way you will pass a Zen temple with open meditation sessions (for Japanese and Foreigners) on posted days. The path is clear all the way to the top, and from there, follow the signs to Arima. A few minutes into Arima you will pass a well from which bubbles up the famous mineral-laden water. The natural carbonation gives it a kick, but visitors are warned not to drink over a liter a day, as certain minerals in larger quantities can run through a person quicker than expected. The hike can be done in 3-4 hours at a reasonable pace.