Skip to Content

Arima Onsen Food Guide: 8 Things to Eat & Drink in this Mountainous Hot Spring Town

Arima Onsen (有馬温泉, ありまおんせん) is a hot spring resort town nestled in the mountains of Kobe that is famous for two things: relaxing in onsen (as per the name, of course) and filling up on delicious food.

In fact, tabearuki (食べ歩き, たべあるき) is quite common, which means walking around town while eating a portable snack or two.

If you’re wondering what kind of food Arima Onsen has to offer, here’s what JFG recommends.

A picture of the Arima Onsen township from an elevated position during the daytime, showing the town surrounded by mountain greenery.
Arima Onsen township surrounded by lush mountain greenery /via Getty Images.

Kobe Beef (神戸牛, こうべぎゅう)

This shouldn’t be surprising given that Arima Onsen is in Kobe, but if you’re looking to try this famous kind of beef, called Kōbe Gyū (神戸牛, こうべぎゅう) in Japanese, Arima Onsen is a great place to visit as you can enjoy it in many ways in one go. 

There are plenty of restaurants and stalls that serve Kobe beef but my recommendation is to stay at a ryokan where you can be served a full-course dinner featuring this melt-in-your-mouth, buttery meat. I’m talking Kobe beef shabu shabu, yakiniku, and the list goes on.

A table setting for two at a ryokan in Arima Onsen. There is raw Kobe beef and vegetables beautifully presented on large stone plates. The food is ready to be cooked on each person's individual cooking apparatus.
Try Kobe beef multiple ways at an Arima Onsen ryokan © Kay A.

Tansan Senbei (炭酸せんべい, たんさんせんべい)

There are tons of different kinds of senbei (せんべい), or rice crackers, throughout Japan but what makes the senbei in Arima Onsen unique is that it’s made of carbonated water, called tansan (炭酸, たんさん) in Japanese. This is supposed to make the cracker more crisp and airy than your average senbei, and after trying it, I have to say that there is a difference! 

Tansan senbei also comes in a range of flavors, such as ginger, peanut, plum and shiso, and sesame seed, just to list a few. Some are also filled with cream like strawberry or vanilla. 

The author holds up a chocolate-coated tansan senbei rice cracker in front of the camera. You can still see the words 'Tansan Senbei' under the chocolate (a distinctive design created by the mold it was baked in). It is being held from the bottom with a foil cupcake liner to avoid sticky fingers.
Chocolate-coated Tansan Senbei from Yunohanado Honpo © Kay A.

I ate so many of these when I visited Arima Onsen and in several ways, such as freshly dipped in chocolate and in gelato, but my favorite was definitely from 湯の花堂本舗太閤通り店 (Yunohanado Honpo), a shop that has a seven-decade-long history. Here you can try their ‘Freshly baked “Rare Tansan Senbei”’ or Nama Tansan Senbei (なま炭酸せんべい, なまたんさんせんべい) immediately after it’s made —I’m talking within five seconds.

Do not take a picture, do not hesitate or think that it might be too hot. If you eat it within five seconds of getting it, you’ll be rewarded with a chewy taste similar to biting into a fresh crepe or a thin, soft cookie straight from the oven. Wait any longer and the senbei will harden into the typical Tansan Senbei commonly found at stores in Arima Onsen, so it’s like experiencing two textures at once while you eat.

The author is holding a Rare Tansan Senbei rice cracker out in front of the camera. A small piece of white paper is wrapped around the base for easy eating. Her manicured thumbnail (white nail polish with diamante details) can also be seen.
Rare Tansan Senbei from Yunohanado Honpo. Eat it immediately. Don’t do what I did for all of you and take a photo, there’s no time for that as the senbei will harden! © Kay A.

You might see a line if you go there to try their Tansan Senbei but don’t worry, the line moves very fast. Note that you get two senbei, so don’t be afraid to quickly bite into the first while you wait for the second one.

Another nice place to try Tansan Senbei is Arima Gelateria Stagione. They boast around 18 flavors of gelato, such as Roasted Tea, Butter Caramel, Arima Cider and Lemon, as well as seasonal specialties. Their range of gelatos are topped with a Tansan Senbei when served, so it’s a nice way to try two delicious things famous in Arima Onsen at once.

This gelato store also ranked 38 in the 2022 Gelato Festival World Ranking, which is not a surprise when considering how well-crafted and delicious their gelato is.

Two scoops of ice cream in a cup. One is light green (pistachio) and the other a light caramel (butter caramel flavor). There is a plain Tansan Senbei rice cracker wedged in the ice cream and two black plastic spoons. The cup sits on a white napkin on a dark wooden surface.
Pistachio and Butter Caramel gelato from Arima Gelateria Stagione, topped with a plain Tansan Senbei © Kay A.

Manju (饅頭, まんじゅう)

Manjū, a type of Japanese steamed rice cake with filling, is a popular dessert in Arima Onsen and is sold at various souvenir shops. For instance, 三ツ森本舗 (Mitsumori Honten) has freshly steamed manju called Yoito Manjū (よい温まんじゅう). This manju’s dough contains brown sugar and yam (山芋, やまいも), giving it a beautiful brown color and fluffy texture. It’s delicious and perfect to have on a crisp winter day.

A 'yoito manju' steamed bun made from dough containing brown sugar and yam, giving it a bit of a brown-ish tinge. It sits in some paper for easy eating and has been placed on a wooden surface for the photo.
‘Yoito Manju’ from Mitsumori Honten has a lovely brown-ish tinge to it from the brown sugar and yam in its dough © Kay A.

But there’s one particular kind of fresh manju that I haven’t seen anywhere else in Japan —Sake Manjū (酒饅頭, さけまんじゅう). Just as the name implies, this manju is steamed in sake. The outside of the piping hot manju is soft with a hint of sake to it that contrasts nicely with the sweet and smooth red bean paste filling called koshian (こしあん), making it a unique food experience. 

The torso and hands of a person in a traditional navy blue jacket can be seen in frame. The person is picking up one of the steamed buns with metal tongs from a large multi-layered wooden steamer.
Sake manju from Wagashi Koubou Arima © Kay A.

You can find Sake Manju at 和菓子工坊 ありま (Wagashi Koubou Arima). While you’re there, you may want to try their famous Karintō Manjū (かりんとう饅頭). The outside has the sweet taste and crisp texture of karintō, a deep-fried Japanese stick-like snack made of flour and brown sugar, while the inside is packed to the brim with hot koshian.

A 'karinto manju' bun cut in half to show the sweet red bean paste inside. The outside is a lovely golden brown color from the brown sugar used to make it. It sits on a blue and white ceramic plate with a red lacquered wooden knife with black and gold detail. The plate sits on a dark wooden surface with a deep and distinctive grain.
An example of ‘karinto manju’ /via Photo AC.

Dango (団子, だんご)

Dango are glutinous rice dumplings that are commonly found in grocery stores or shops in tourist areas. It isn’t specific to Arima Onsen but I thought I would include it on the list because the dango I had at one particular store, Himitsu no Mitarashi Dango (秘密のみたらし団子), was amazing. My husband, who has been eating dango since he was a child, said it was among the best he has ever had.

The store has several different types of flavors for the dango so it was hard to choose but we decided to go with Mitarashi Kinako Shitate (みたらしきな粉仕立て, みたらしきなこしたて). The skewered balls of dango were cooked perfectly right in front of us with a blowtorch before being placed on a tray with kinako on it (roasted soybean flour). It was then slathered in a golden brown soy sauce glaze that had just the right amount of sweetness and topped with small bits of butter from Hokkaido. This dango was absolutely glorious and I highly recommend trying one. 

Four glutinous rice dumplings on a skewer. The dumplings are coated in a sticky golden brown sauce and topped with butter. Roasted soy bean powder can also be seen sprinkled around on the white styrofoam tray it has been placed on.
The delightful ‘Mitarashi Kinako Shitate’ dango from Himitsu no Mitarashi Dango © Kay A.

Croquettes (コロッケ)

Croquettes can be found almost everywhere in Japan, from convenience stores to udon shops, but the croquettes at Takenaka Nikuten (竹中肉店, たけなかにくてん) are packed with a mix of Kobe beef and other Kuroge wagyū (Japanese black beef) inside.

Their croquettes have a really nice crunch on the outside while the inside is juicy and packed with flavor. Personally, it was a little too heavy for me but that made it perfect for sharing with my toddler and meat-loving husband who thoroughly enjoyed it. 

The author is holding a croquette out in front of the camera. The croquette is peeking out of a small white paper bag. Her manicured thumbnail (white nail polish with diamante details) can be seen gripping the front of the bag.
Beef and potato croquette from Takenaka Nikuten © Kay A.

Arima Beer (有馬ビール)

While you enjoy your croquette, why not get a craft beer brewed at Arima Onsen? There are several flavors to enjoy from different stores. After buying my croquette, I decided to grab a takeaway Pear-flavored beer from a craft beer bar called Arima Cinq (有馬Cinq) while my toddler had freshly made apple juice with slices of apple in it. 

The beer was light but didn’t skimp on flavor with just the right amount of pear. Before I realized it, it was gone. If it wasn’t winter, I probably would have grabbed another one but my hands were a bit too cold. My daughter also quickly downed her drink and wanted more!  

We also got bottles of Arima Bakushu (有馬麦酒, ありまばくしゅ) Japanese ale and Black ale to enjoy at home from the souvenir store at our ryokan and were pleased with each one.

A glass of pear craft beer sits on a wooden counter top at Arima Cinq. The liquid is a light amber color with white foam on top.
Pear craft beer from Arima Cinq © Kay A.

Arima Cider Teppo Water (ありまサイダー てっぽう水)

If you’re not a fan of beer and are looking for something carbonated, then I recommend grabbing some Arima Cider. This is sold at various stores in glass bottles with a retro-style label that perfectly depicts the history of this drink that has been around since the Showa period. Supposedly, this cider was the first made in Japan!

It’s quite refreshing, so it would also be perfect to pair with something heavy like croquettes as you eat while walking around town.

A bamboo basket filled with old-school glass bottles of Arima Cider Teppo Water. The bottles are a light blue color with metal caps and a predominantly red and white label (with some blue and black).
For an effervescent, non-alcoholic drink, try Arima Onsen’s signature beverage, Arima Cider Teppo Water. © Feel KOBE

Boar Meat Buns (イノシシ肉まん, いのししにくまん)

For those of you who are adventurous eaters, perhaps you’d be interested in some Boar Meat Buns or Inoshishi Nikuman (イノシシ肉まん) from Arima An (有馬庵, ありまあん), which are steamed buns containing 100% boar meat.

I have not tried these so I cannot vouch for the taste but I’ve read on Japanese review sites that it doesn’t taste gamey. If you do try it, let me know what you think!

The front window of Arima An. The signage on the window is red with a white outline. There is a picture of a wild boar, the price is written as 400 yen and the text touts the wild boar meat steamed buns as ideal for eating and walking around town (tabearuki). Through the window, you can see a steamer filled with boar meat buns and a large pair of tongs hanging on the outside.
The wild boar meat steamed buns at Arima An © Kay A.

If you decide to head to Arima Onsen and enjoy some (or all) of these types of food, I recommend going early in the day as many shops where you can get snacks (such as croquettes) tend to close from around noon to 2 PM for lunch. Some items might sell out as well.

And to help make tabearuki easier, you might want to use this Google Map, which has all the stores listed above on it.

For more Area & Restaurant Guides in Japan, click here.

Featured Image /via Getty Images.

Pin me for later

Pin for this post - Arima Onsen Food Guide

Share this post:


Thursday 27th of April 2023

Arima Onsen is great! I’ll be trying the inoshishi nikuman next time I go. 🤤