My aunt lives in Kobe and I used to go to Arima Onsen town while visiting her. Arima Onsen town is around 30 minutes from central Kobe by train (underground and over-ground). It is easy to get to from Kobe.
I have also used Express Bus from Shin-Kobe station, where Shinkansen from Fukuoka stops. Taking trains would be faster. But it can get tricky if you have a suitcase (and a child!) as you have to walk a bit within the stations (with stairs and barriers…) for transfer. Express Bus would be easier if you have a large luggage. No transfer.
If it is a day trip, I go to Taikonoyu at Arima View Hotel Urara. There is a free shuttle bus from Arima Onsen train station. This bath house is massive. There are so many kinds of baths. Gold(!) bath, Silver bath, sauna, Iwabanyoku (stone sauna), cypress bath, Goemonburo, Rotenburo, Doctor Fish (fish eat the dead skins off you feet – for a fee) and etc. There are indoor and outdoor areas as well as resting areas and restaurants. Once you are in, you stay there for a long time.
When I went there last time in 2017, there were many foreigners in the bath. They all seemed to know what to do. Then I realised that there were bath house staff stationed in the changing area to assist them. Very good idea. It is difficult to read all the instruction posters to follow the rules of what to do and what not to do.
Unfortunately, Taikonoyu is closed until April 2019 for renovation work. I would like to go there again next time I’m in Kansai region.
When I visit Arima Onsen overnight, I stay at Arima Grand Hotel. I always manage to find a discount coupon for some reason and never pay the official room price. It is a ‘grand’ hotel with large outdoor heated swimming pools in summer. That’s why I go there. My daughter loves this outside pools with slides and so on. Their breakfast buffet is also very nice.
I was once upgraded to a large Western/Japanese connecting rooms with a garden. I was with my daughter, my parents and my aunt. There was even a fancy massage chair, which we all loved. It was like the one below.
My Dad absolutely loved this massage chair. When we went back to Fukuoka, he got me to search for a good deal for this massage chair online. I found one and spent 2 days to negotiate a better price. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. The man on the other end of the telephone line had to give me further 10% discount, free chair covers and free delivery & installation. I am a nightmare for sales persons.
10 days later, my Dad was sitting in his new massage chair at home with a big smile.