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Angus Miyaji

Silk Express : The new way to travel to Kinugawa Onsen

Although there are several ways to get to Kinugwa Onsen, visiting Kinugawa Onsen from Tokyo has become more accessible thanks to Silk Express.

The Silk Express, a stress-free relaxing bus service, offers journeys from JR Utsunomiya station to Kinugawa Onsen and excursions from Kinugawa Onsen to Yunishigawa and Central Nikko for those who want to explore more of the area.

If you are planning a multi-day trip to Kinugawa Onsen or the Nikko area, we think this would be a great way to explore!

In this article, we break down why we think the Silk Express is a good option and which routes are available to experience.

Silk Travel Bus Express

The 3 advantages of using the Silk Express

Planning a trip to Kinugawa Onsen? Here are three advantages for using the Silk Express.

1) Hassle-free travel :

The first benefit is that the Silk Express offers a relaxing journey, taking you to see areas that are impossible to travel to by train. This includes stress-free travel to the Yunishigawa Onsen area and a hassle-free journey between Kinugawa Onsen and places of interest in the Central Nikko area.

2) Maximum Comfort :

The next benefit is maximum comfort. The Silk Express busses are incredibly comfortable, and with a group of up to 12 people, you can reserve the lounge area at the rear end of the bus shown in the photo below!

3) Access from JR Utsunomiya station (Shinkansen) :

The third benefit is access from JR Utsunomiya Station. The Silk Express departs from JR Utsunomiya Station, 50 min north of Tokyo, where the JR Tohoku & Akita Shinkansen trains (from Tokyo or the Tohoku areas) stop.

If you are used to traveling on the JR trains or would like to taste the famous Gyoza dumplings in Utsunomiya for lunch*, using the Silk Express will make it much easier to get to Kinugawa Onsen.

*See our Utsunomiya Gyoza Guide for more information about Gyoza dumplings in Utsunomiya!

Routes offered by Silk Express

Routes for Silk Express (from Utsunomiya to Kinugawa Onsen and Yunishigawa and Nikko)

The Main Route (Direct access shown as the Red Arrow) :

As you can see from the big red arrow above, the main route connects JR Utsunomiya Station and Kinugawa Onsen daily. The route departs JR Utsunomiya station in the early afternoon and arrives at Kiugawa Onsen 60 min later. The timing gives you plenty of time to explore the nearby attractions. (See what Kinugawa Onsen has to offer here)

As for the return journey, the Silk Express will pick you up from Kinugawa Onsen in the morning and take you directly back to JR Utsunomiya station in the shortest possible way, arriving in Utsunomiya before lunch.

* If you have a few extra hours, the Silk Express also offers additional routes (Add-on routes) where you can visit the UNESCO shrines and temple of Nikko or Yunishigawa. See the Add-on routes below.

Hot spring (Onsen) baths at Kinugawa Grand Hotel YUME no TOKI

Hot spring (Onsen) baths at Kinugawa Park Hotels

ADD-ON - Kinugawa Onsen to Yunishigawa (Two-way arrow shown in grey) :

In addition to a direct trip from JR Utsunomiya to Kinugawa Onsen, you can book this add-on, which offers an excursion to Yunishigawa.

Yunishigawa is a remote village in the mountains known as one of the hideaway settlements of the Heike (Taira samurai clan) who escaped prosecution after being defeated at the end of the Heian Period (710-1185). The Silk Express will stop at Heike no Sato, a popular open-air museum with thatched-roof houses, giving you time to enter, walk around, and learn how the Heike refugees lived here in the harsh, remote environment.

After time at the museum, the Silk Express will take you back to Kinugawa Onsen in time for a relaxing onsen experience in the late afternoon.

ADD-ON - Kinugawa Onsen to Nikko (Arrow shown in grey) :

This is a great add-on to book if you haven’t visited the UNESCO World Heritage shrines of Nikko before.

Leaving Kinugawa Onsen in the morning, the Silk Express will take you to the UNESCO shrines (details of the route are slightly adjusted depending on the time of year), before heading back to JR Utsunomiya station arriving early afternoon.

*This excursion can also be booked as a half-day return excursion to the shrines from Kinugawa Onsen.

Taiyuin part of Rinnoji temple (UNESCO World Heritage)

ADD-ON - Other sesonal trips :

Depending on the season, there are other add-on trips, such as visiting Oku-Nikko, experiencing strawberry picking, and visiting Japan’s largest bamboo forest, Wakayama Farm.

Find out more

Click below to see prices and details from Silk Express’s English page.


Find out more about the Silk Express from thier English page

Discover more about Kinugawa Onsen!

Did you find this article useful?

I hope you enjoyed reading about this hidden gem just north of Tokyo, if you would like to know more about fun things to do and travel ideas, please continue to have a look at our must-see / must do things nearby Tokyo page.

To book unique activities in English, please see the Nearby Tokyo experience page.

Angus profile (rowing boat on Mout Haruna)

Contributor:  Angus Miyaji

Founder of Nearby Tokyo/ and Japan World Link, Angus helps visitors discover off the beaten track destinations in the North Kanto regions (Tochigi, Gunma, Ibaraki & Saitama north of Tokyo). He regularly travels between Japan and the UK promoting tourism and Japanese sake.

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