Hyogo: Shrine Protects Source of Famed Arima Onsen

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Steam rises from the Tenjin Sengen hot spring source within the grounds of Arima Tenjin Shrine in Kobe.

KOBE — A faint smell like sulfur wafts in the air as one passes through the torii of Arima Tenjin Shrine, the grounds of which are home to a source for the nearby Arima Onsen hot spring resort in Kobe.

The source is called Tenjin Sengen, where hot spring water at 99 C comes up from 200 meters underground.

While Arima Onsen, like Dogo Onsen in Ehime Prefecture, is one of the oldest hot springs in the nation, founded in 979, Tenjin Sengen is relatively new.

Shortly after the end of World War II, the Kobe city government learned that the amount of hot spring water gushing out from the Arima Onsen area was diminishing. So, in 1948, the city drilled in the precincts of the shrine and tapped the hot spring source.

Today, there are different kinds of springs at Arima Onsen, known for Imperial family members’ visits since ancient times. The kinsen “gold” hot spring is reddish-brown and contains salt and iron, while the ginsen “silver” hot spring is clear and colorless. Tenjin Sengen serves as a source of the kinsen.

At Arima Tenjin Shrine, some worshippers believe in the benefits from the hot spring water. Some even seek to gather the rising steam from Tenjin Sengen to pat it over their heads and bodies as if it were smoke from an incense burner.