Kansai Scene Magazine


Royalty in crab

Eat, bathe, and be merry ...

One of the most popular winter foods in this land is crab. So what is it from this seemingly simple shellfish meal that pulls hardworking people away from their 60-hour weeks?

The royal treatment, tucked into a value-for-money, all-inclusive, one-night package, is offered by most ryokan along the Sea of Japan.

A one-night package to Kinosaki, renowned for its seafood, usually includes train tickets, a one-night stay in a ryokan, crab dinner, breakfast, and access to all seven onsen in town.

This may sound like a regular tour package but it fell nothing short of a royal holiday. After a wretched two-and-three-quarter- hour ride on the local express, hotel staff were there to receive us and other guests upon arrival at the JR train station. Parked just outside the station were private mini buses ready to take guests to their hotels to save them the ten-minute walk and the headache of fumbling through a map. When we arrived at the hotel, we could already smell freshly barbecued crab. In fact, the wonderful aroma was everywhere, in our room, on our sheets, even on the towels.

Not a moment after we finished our tea, Yuko, our room attendant, came in to announce dinner. Guests had the luxury of being served dinner in the privacy of their own rooms. With a hotel full of guests, they had their hands full. However, dinner was flawlessly choreographed from the perfect timing to the warm hospitality. The meal consisted of sashimi, nabe, barbecued beef, a large spider crab, a small steamed crab, tofu, hors d'oeuvres, soup, desert, and if you were still hungry, a bento for a midnight snack. Aside from all the delectable little dishes, our favorite was the small crab, which was still steaming in its dish, ready to be eaten after the nabe. If you don't know how to eat crab or just don't feel like working for your meal, the server will break your crab for you.

Having feasted on a decadent ten-course meal, we then a stroll along the canal to take in some evening air. In Kinosaki, going to onsen is favored, which accounts for people wearing yukata and geta on the streets. At night, the dark desolate tourist town, which was dimly lighted by yellow lampposts and a few souvenir shops, was pleasantly brightened by the clopping sounds of wooden clogs. Even though Kinosaki is a very popular tourist area, it still had a small town atmosphere. After a warm soak we returned to our room. The table was cleared, the futons were made and to our amazement, tea was brewing. Given that we never had to wait, get stressed or ask for anything, we felt like royalty. We melted into our futons and slept like kings that night.

The next morning, breakfast was served in the same manner and the bus was ready to take us back to the station.

The shops near the station are worth a look if you want souvenirs. There, you can buy a crab just pulled from the sea, have it packed in a foam box filled with ice and take it with you on the train. A medium size crab can cost ¥10,000.

Text: An Nguyen
Photos: Wes Lang

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Getting there

Kinosaki and other towns along the coast offer packages year round but going in winter for crab is highly recommended. Tickets can be purchased at any travel agency. Price for an overnight stay start at around ¥17,000 per person, depending on the size of the meal, the luxury of the hotel, and the time of year. One-day packages with a crab dinner start at around ¥10,000. Access by JR to Kinosakionsen from Osaka by express via Fukuchiyama or direct from Kyoto.

Kinosaki Hot Springs official website www.kinosaki-spa.gr.jp/english/english.html