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Kinosaki

If we had to pick one hot spring town from the dozens throughout Japan, it would be Kinosaki. This little gem of a place is entirely devoted to bathing, with five historic public baths as well as the ones at the characterful Japanese inns along the willow-lined streets. It is mercifully free of the bigger resort-style ryokan that have come to dominate the view in many other hot spring towns, and at its centre is a lovely neon-free canal walk. Do as the Romans do, stay at a ryokan and don the traditional Japanese 'yukata' (evening robe) with 'geta' (clogs) then slowly stroll from bath to bath. The Japanese are particularly respectful of personal space when bathing, so feel the breeze and mineral-rich waters against your skin without feeling stared at. Kinosaki stands alongside Kurashiki as one of the best spots to take a break between the cities and go in first gear. Absorb the atmosphere, have some Japanese sweets and even try the excellent craft beer brewed by some of the inns here. The town looks picture-perfect from the top of the cable car ride here, and wild boar can even still be spotted in this sedate and unspoilt nook on the Sea of Japan coast.

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