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Kinugawa (鬼怒川) and Kawaji (川治) [3] are twin hot spring towns in Tochigi Prefecture, Japan.


Kinugawa Onsen, known as the "okuyashiki," or "living room," of Tokyo, was opened to development in the early Meiji period, and it became a major destination for those wanting to escape the noise and congestion of the city. The name "Kinugawa" literally means Angry Demon River. The exact provenance is unclear, but the most likely explanation is that this comes from the raging waters within — although the river is now dammed and considerably more placid.

The central area is home to several hotels and ryokan, most with their own hot springs. Unfortunately, due to a decline in group tours and the failure of the area's regional bank, Ashikaga Bank, in the late 1990s, several of the larger hotels have gone under, and their empty hulks scar an otherwise picturesque location. Still, the resort is home to dozens of hotels, pensions, and ryokan, and the area--together with nearby Kawaji--still attracts over 2 million visitors each year.

If you can spare the cash and time, it may be worth it head up northward to Kawaji or one of the many tiny hot spring hamlets collectively known as Oku-Kinu (奥鬼怒, "Inner Kinu").

The snowy Kinugawa River

Get in[edit]

Kinugawa is most easily reached on the Tōbu Kinugawa Line (東武鬼怒川線) from Asakusa in Tokyo.

By Tobu[edit]

Tobu runs all-reserved limited express services, known as Tokkyū (特急) trains, to the area. These trains, which use Tobu's "SPACIA" railroad equipment, have comfortable, reclining seats, with vending machines available on most trains.

The Kinu (きぬ) limited express departs from Asakusa every 30-60 minutes, and reaches Kinugawa-Onsen (鬼怒川温泉) in 2 hours at a cost of ¥2800. Ordinary rapid trains are cheaper at ¥1500, but take anywhere from 2 hours 20 minutes to 3 hours to reach Kinugawa. Kawaji is another 20 minutes up the line.

The Kinugawa Theme Park Pass [4] includes a round-trip fare and access to one or both of Kinugawa's most famous theme parks: Nikko Edo Mura and Tobu World Square. Valid for 2 days. Cost ¥3300-6000, depending on the theme park chosen and the adult/child fare. This pass is available only to those with a non-Japanese passport.

By JR and Tobu[edit]

New limited express train service operated by both JR and Tobu began in March of 2006, offering three daily services in each direction between Kinugawa-Onsen and Shinjuku, Ikebukuro and Omiya.

The trains, called the Kinugawa and Spacia Kinugawa, depart from Shinjuku station at 10:35, 13:05 and 17:35. Return service departs Kinugawa-Onsen at 8:13, 10:36 and 15:03.

In additon, a limited express train departs from Shinjuku at 7:12 for Nikko. You can transfer from this train at Shimo-Imaichi (下今市) for a shuttle train service to Kinugawa. The last service to Shinjuku departs Kinugawa-Onsen at 16:24 (Shuttle train connecting at Shimo-Imaichi to the limited express).

Seat reservations are mandatory, and the one-way fare between Shinjuku and Kinugawa-Onsen is ¥3900. If you plan to use this train in both directions, you should purchase a JR Tobu Nikko Kinugawa Free Pass for ¥7800, which includes one round-trip on the limited express and unlimited usage of local Tobu trains and buses in both the Kinugawa and Nikko areas within a three day period.

The new limited express service is fully covered under the JR East Rail Pass; national Japan Rail Pass holders can use it for ¥1560 each way (covering the portion of the trip between Kurihashi and Kinugawa-Onsen). The Japan Rail Pass does not cover Tobu trains or buses, and the JR East Rail Pass only covers local Tobu trains between Shimo-Imaichi and Tobu Nikko, and Shimo-Imaichi and Kinugawa-Onsen. You will have to pay separate fares for any services that are not covered.

By JR[edit]

If you are willing to put up with connecting several times, there is a way that you can get to Kinugawa using mostly JR trains. This method of travel is only recommended for national Japan Rail Pass holders as it costs the least amount of additional money, otherwise the other methods listed above are recommended as they take a similar amount of time.

- Take the JR Tohoku Shinkansen from the Tokyo area to Utsunomiya station (Approx. 50 minutes, ¥4290 unreserved seat/¥4900 reserved seat, no charge with Japan Rail Pass)

- Transfer to the JR Nikko Line to Imaichi station (Approx. 30 minutes, ¥650, no charge with Japan Rail Pass)

- Walk from JR Imaichi Station to Tobu Shimo-Imaichi Station (Approx. 10-15 minutes)

- Take the Tobu Railway local or rapid service to Kinugawa-Onsen Station (Approx. 20 minutes, ¥240). The Japan Rail Pass is not covered - purchase a ticket before boarding, or if you have a Suica/PASMO card it will work on this route.

Before your journey you will want to visit a website such as Hyperdia [5] to check the appropriate connection times.

Get around[edit]

Kinugawa is fairly spread out. You can either use the infrequent buses, or the expensive taxis. If arriving by train, be sure to check if your lodgings are closer to Kinugawa Onsen or Kinugawa Kōen station.

See[edit][add listing]

There is little to see in Kinugawa Onsen itself, but the Nichien Momiji Line, the highway connecting Kinugawa and Kawaji, makes for a fairly scenic drive.

Three theme parks in the area, collectively known as Kinugawa Theme Park, are major draws for Japanese visitors:

  • Tobu World Square, [6], bus from Kinugawa Onsen station (5 min) or on foot from Kosagoe station (8 min). A miniature 1:25 model of the world's most famous sites, covering everything from the Pyramids to the Statue of Liberty and, oddly enough, Narita Airport. Entry ¥2500/1200 adult/child.
  • Western Village. Where the Japanese get to live out their cowboy fantasies (recently closed).
  • Edo Wonderland Nikko Edomura "江戸ワンダーランド日光江戸村" is a cultural theme park that resurrects and showcases the life and culture of the Edo period, the park hosts Edo period architecture from rural lodgings to urban samurai residences and government buildings. Also features 7 theatres featuring various traditionally themed shows including Ninja action and Oiran shows in addition to outdoor live shows, seasonal festivals, restaurants shopping etc. Edo Wonderland also has a range of visitor experiences for adults and children including Ninja workshops, Japanese traditional archery, shuriken throwing and costume hire. Address: 470-2 Karakura,Nikko, Tochigi,321-2524 Phone: +81-288-77-1777 Price: adults ¥4,500 children ¥2,300 Operating hours: Changes seasonally please refer to website available in English. Access: from Tokyo, the best option depends largely on the departure time:
    • 1. Train from Tobu Asakusa Station to Tobu Nikko Station. From JR Nikko Station (2 min walk) the Edo Wonderland free shuttle bus may be caught to Edo Wonderland.
    • 2. Train from Tobu Asakusa Station to Kinugawa-Onsen Station. From Kinugawa Onsen Station take the local bus directly to Edo Wonderland.

Do[edit][add listing]

Loll about in hot springs. More adventurous types may also want to try battling against angry demons by rafting in the Kinugawa River.

Buy[edit][add listing]

Eat[edit][add listing]

Most guests eat at their lodgings, but there are a scattering of restaurants just outside Kinugawa Onsen

  • Ichifuji (一富士) (1000-1900JPY) (Tel: 0288-77-0231) is a Japanese restaurant that has really tasty fried chicken. Their tuna bowl (sashimi) is also of good value. They can pick you up at your hotel and take you back later - just ask the front desk of the hotel to make a booking.

Drink[edit][add listing]

Sleep[edit][add listing]

The recession of the 1990s hit Kinugawa hard and many hotels struggle with low occupancy rates (or have been outright shut down). This means there are some pretty good bargains to be found, especially off-season.

  • Kaniyu (加仁湯), Oku-Kinugawa (Public bus from Kinugawa stn to Meotobuchi (女夫渕), then 25 min by shuttle bus), [1]. A lost hotel in the mountains with 8 hotsprings, 7 of which are mixed and/or private baths. You can eat bear sashimi and share a bath with your partner, watching the stars, river and waterfall. ¥12,000 with two meals.  edit
  • Kinugawa Green Palace, Tel. 0288-77-2121, [7]. Large operation offering surprisingly large and nice Japanese-style rooms. The outdoor bath on the ground floor has nice views — if you keep your eyes fixed straight forward and ignore the rumbling air/water/heating machinery on all other three sides. Still decent value at ¥8000 with two meals.
  • Minshuku Ichinoya (民宿一乃屋), 199 Nokado (60 min by bus from Kinugawa), 0288-97-1204, [2]. Deep in the mountains west of Kinugawa, this rustic inn specializes in food cooked on the hearth (irori). Public hot spring next door. ¥7000 with two meals.  edit

Get out[edit]

  • Nikko, with its national parks and opulent shrines, presents an altogether different picture.
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