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Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan

The Hot Spring Hotel of Honshu is Still Open After 1,200 Years of Operation

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The concept of hotels has been in existence since antiquity. The ancient Greeks, for example, are recorded to have developed thermal baths so that travelers could rest and recuperate after a long day’s journey. In the Roman world, mansions which provided accommodation for travelers on government business were built. It was, however, only during the Middle Ages (in Europe at least) that the first establishments offering travelers accommodation on a more regular basis were founded. Travelers were able to seek refuge in inns, hospices and hospitals built by various Christian religious orders.

Today, most of these early forms of hotels are no longer in existence. To find the world’s oldest hotel, one would need travel to the Land of the Rising Sun. According to the Guinness World Records, the world’s oldest hotel is the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan. This hotel is located on the main Japanese island of Honshu, more specifically in the Chūbu region’s Yamanashi Prefecture. This prefecture is well known for its mountains, and the highest mountain in Japan, Mount Fuji, has been reported to be a two-and-a-half-hour drive from the hotel.

Guinness World Records

Guinness World Records ( traveldreamscapes.wordpress.com)

Hot Spring Hotel

The Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan is situated amongst the mountains in a remote valley. The hotel is said to have been established in 705 AD (the second year of the Keiun era, hence the ‘Keiunkan’ part of the name) by the son of an emperor’s aid by the name of Fujiwara Mahito. Apart from its age, the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan is best known for being a hot spring hotel, as its name suggests (‘onsen’ being the Japanese word for ‘hot spring’). Today, the hotel has six baths, which are fed by four separate hot springs. It may be added that the hotel has been enlarged and modernized over the centuries. One of the facilities added in modern times, for example, is its karaoke bar. Nevertheless, whilst the hotel is recorded to have been last renovated in 1997, much of its traditional features have been preserved.

The hot spring in the hotel

The hot spring in the hotel ( traveldreamscapes.wordpress.com)

The Hotel Today

As of today, the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan is reported to have been kept in Fujiwara Mahito’s family for a total of 52 generations. During this time, people from various walks of life have visited the hotel. It is often highlighted that the hotel was particularly popular amongst those of the military class, including samurai, military commanders and shoguns. The reason for this is said to be that the water from the hot springs have beneficial effects on the body, amongst which is the relaxation of tired and aching muscles. On the hotel’s website, for example, the water from the springs is reported to contain “sodium, calcium nitrate and chloride”. In other words, it contains “low alkaline properties”. These properties are reputed to alleviate “gastrointestinal disorders, muscle pain, (and) constipation”, as well as to whiten one’s skin.

Apart from physical relaxation, it is likely that the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan also offered mental relaxation to its patrons. As the hotel is located in a remote area in the wilderness, its patrons were, and still are, able to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. This remains true even today. Although it has been mentioned earlier that the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan has been modernized over the centuries, one of the modern amenities that it does not offer its clients is access to the internet. Without Wi-Fi or access to the internet, it may be said that guests at the hotel have no choice but to relax.

Another view of the hotel.

Another view of the hotel. ( YouTube Screenshot )

In spite of being the world’s oldest hotel, its owners continue to seek ways to upgrade and improve the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan. Last year, for instance, it was reported that a new 888 m well was being dug. When completed, it is expected that over a thousand liters of naturally heated water would be pumped each minute, thus making it the world’s most productive hot spring.          

Top image: Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan. Photo source: creative901.wordpress.com

By Wu Mingren                        

References

Earthables, 2016. The World's Oldest Hotel Has Been Run by the Same Family For More Than 1,300 Years. [Online]
Available at: http://www.earthables.com/oldest-hotel-in-the-world-1918459647.html

EricGrundhauser, 2016. Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan. [Online]
Available at: http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/nishiyama-onsen-keiunkan

Guinness World Records, 2016. Oldest hotel. [Online]
Available at: http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/oldest-hotel/

Levy-Bonvin, J., 2003. Hotels, A Brief History. [Online]
Available at: http://www.hospitalitynet.org/news/4017990.html

Morris, C., 2016. The World's Oldest Hotel Has Been a Family Business for 1,300 Years. [Online]
Available at: http://fortune.com/2016/01/26/oldest-hotel-keiunkan/

Qin Xie, 2016. Now THAT'S a family heirloom: Inside the world's oldest hotel that's been passed down 52 Japanese generations during its 1,311 year history. [Online]
Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/travel_news/article-3458259/Now-S-family-heirloom-Inside-world-s-oldest-hotel-s-passed-52-generations-1-311-year-history-s-attracting-guests-thanks-natural-hot-springs.html

www.keiunkan.co.jp, 2016. Nishiyama Hot Spring. [Online]
Available at: http://www.keiunkan.co.jp/en/

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