Toyooka / Kinosaki : Rich Nature, Onsen, and Delicious Food
Located in the northern part of Hyogo Prefecture on the Sea of Japan, lies the historical city of Toyooka, which prospered as the center of the old domain called Tajima. The area attracts people not only with its abundant nature but also has a wonderful spa as well as various delicacies from the surrounding sea and the mountains. The Hyogo Prefecture project to re-introduce oriental white storks is in progress in this city and is returning hand-raised storks to the wild. Visit Toyooka for its variety of attractive features!
Maruyama River flows from south to north through Toyooka City into the Sea of Japan. “Lower Maruyama River and the surrounding rice paddies” was designated a registered site by the Ramsar Convention in 2012. In the past, the swale created by floods and the abundant nature was the perfect habitat for white storks and the last wild white stork was observed in this area in Japan. Toyooka City began to breed white storks in 1965 and about 40 storks have been successfully returned to the wild. Look up and you may be lucky enough to see a stork soaring through the sky. If you want to see white storks up close, visit the Homeland for the Oriental White Stork.
Part of the nature-rich city of Toyooka is in the San’in Kaigan Geopark that stretches across Kyoto Prefecture, Hyogo Prefecture, and Tottori Prefecture. A geopark is defined as a territory which encompasses a site of scientific importance both for geological reasons and archaeological, ecological, or cultural value. Some of the highlights of this geopark are caves, including Genbudo Cave with its beautiful columnar joints and Seiryudo Cave, Mount Kannabe, and the Takeno Coast with its undulating sunken rocks, caves, and cliffs. Takenohama Beach is one of the biggest swimming beaches in the Kinki Area and offers canoeing and kayaking. Enjoy the beautiful scenery and experience some of the mysterious creations of nature.
Ankoku-ji Temple, which belongs to the Daitoku-ji branch of the Rinzai School established in the 14th century, has 100-year-old dodan-tsutsuji (Enkianthus perulatus) trees that create mesmerizing scenery, especially in November with their beautiful red leaves Walking Around Town Izushi was developed as the castle town for Izushi Castle in the Tajima region and is often referred to as “little Kyoto.” From the castle ruins, there is a good view of the streets lined with many old town houses and buildings, including old residences of high-ranking samurai. The Shinkoro clock tower is a symbol of Izushi and Izushi Eirakukan is a playhouse built in 1901 that underwent extensive repairs in 2008. If you get hungry while strolling around, try some of the local specialty soba.
Toyooka is also known as the biggest producer of bags in Japan. There is a street called “Kaban (bag) Street,” filled with bag stores, bag cleaners, and bag repair shops. Atelier NUU is a studio which offers a factory tour and semi-order services. Come to Toyooka to see the huge variety of unique bags including original bags by the local bag manufacturer, Artphere, which won the iF Design Award in Germany and the Best in Show award at the MIPEL Bag Show in Italy.
Winter is the season to enjoy eating crab. The matsuba crabs (a local name for snow crab) from the Sea of Ocean are unbelievably sweet and flavorful. Tajima beef, famous as stock for world-reknown Kobe beef, is another recommended local delicacy. Izushi’s specialty is izushi-sara-soba, soba noodles served on five white porcelain dishes. Some farmers in this area grow rice using the traditional method with few agricultural chemicals in order to protect the rice paddies and create a rich habitat for the white storks. For a summer delicacy, try the locally-raised squid sashimi.
Kinosaki Onsen is one of the best hot springs in Japan and has been a favorite of many throughout its history of 1,300 years. Change into a comfortable yukata cotton kimono and visit the seven public bath facilities for a relaxing soak in the hot spring waters. Enjoy strolling along the old wooden building-lined streets for a safe and nostalgic night out. This area has many unique ryokan Japanese-style hotels including Koman Ryokan established more than 1,000 years ago. Enjoy the retro atmosphere at a traditional shooting gallery (shatekiba) or go to the nearby Kinosaki Marine World to see and touch dolphins and penguins.
Savoring the winter delicacies from the Sea of Japan and relaxing in a hot spring bath is the perfect way to enjoy a laid-back trip to Toyooka, a place with an interesting history set in a rich natural environment.