Lying at the bottom of Akaishi Mountains in Hayakawa, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan, is Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan – one of the oldest hotels in the world. Being a hot spring hotel, it sources all of its refreshing hot water from the nearby Hakuho Spring and sports beautiful Japanese architecture inside and out.
Founded in 705 AD by Fujiwara Mahito, it has since been run by 52 generations of the same family for over 1300 years and is listed in the Guinness World Records as the World’s oldest hotel. 13 years younger than Nishiyama Onsen Kieunkan is Hoshi Ryokan, also located in Japan – but we’re not talking about Hoshi Ryokan today! We’re talking about Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, a refreshing and beautiful hot spring hotel.
A Brief History
The Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan hotel was founded in 705 AD by Fujiwara Mahito and from that day on, his descendents continued to run this hot spring hotel to this very day. As it was founded in the second year of the Keiun era, it was named ‘Keiunkan’. Interestingly enough, each owner of Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan has been true to their inn keeping skills, according to many reviews over the years.
Throughout the past 1300 years, a wide range of people have visited – from military officers to townspeople to tourists. Regardless of how much time passes, Keiunkan is an embodiment of the constant kindness driven by the spirit of Japanese harmony towards their guests. Therefore, you are just as welcome as a commanding Japanese officer from the 10th century might have been!
On the other hand, their hot springs have been flowing freely continuously since the beginning, even during its last renovation in 1997. Their hot springs have been enjoyed by many people (including politicians and samurais) throughout the years and you can enjoy them too.
The 5 star ryokan (a type of traditional Japanese inn) Nishiyama Onsen Kieunkan is set within a valley amongst nature, and you can stay in one of the 35 rooms it has to offer.
Adopting a style of Japanese architecture, this hot spring hotel offers spacious and refreshing rooms with warm lighting and typical Japanese styled furniture (including sliding doors and tatami matted floors!).
There are a number of rooms available – suite and standard – all of which have a special feature, might it be a moon viewing platform or a free-flowing, open-air bath. Each comes with amenities too, including a yukata (a Japanese garment such as a kimono), so that you can make the most out of your experience here.
There is several leisure facilities open to your entertainment – being a hot spring hotel, hot springs are to be expected. There are a few types of hot springs you can look out for, such as simple and private outdoor baths, ‘observatory’ baths, and also mountain stream outdoor baths.
You can take a break and relax in one of them (receiving all of its benefits, such as relief of muscle pain and fair skin), then view the Yukawa ravine on the terrace afterwards, or you can exercise your vocal chords at karaoke!
Alternatively, you can fill your stomach with some of the hotel’s homemade food – all of which are traditional Japanese food of course, so if you love Japanese food, then you may have just hit jackpot!
You can indulge in the Mountain Kaiseki Banquet, which is made from the highest quality ingredients and the most love from the chefs, and enjoy the A5-rank Koshu beef, a meat with a wonderful texture and delicious flavour.
Standing at an astonishing 3,776.24 m (12,389 ft) is Japan’s highest mountain, one of the Three Holy Mountains (along with Mount Tate and Mount Haku), Mount Fuji. Often depicted in art and photographs, this popular symbol of Japan is definitely worth visiting – you don’t have to worry about it erupting, as it has not done so since 1707-08.
One of the most important and popular temples of Japan, Zenkoji Temple, was founded in the 7th Century and stores the first ever Buddhist statue brought into Japan. There is rumoured to be a ‘key to paradise’, which will grant salvation to anybody who touches it, but visitors must first walk in complete darkness through an underground passage in search of it.
Jigokudani Monkey Park
Deep in the forest of the Jigokudani Valley, you can find wild snow monkeys (Japanese Macaques) relaxing in the hot springs of their natural habitat. It is best to visit Jigokudani Monkey Park during January to February, when the snow monkeys are especially photogenic in the hot springs, surrounded by the beautiful snow.
Being the second largest of the five Fuji lakes, the area surrounding Lake Kawaguchi is a very popular resort, in which many visit or stay at just before setting out for adventures up Mount Fuji. Here, you can spend the day windsurfing, out on an excursion boat, or simply relaxing by the lake – if you are lucky, you might visit on the day that there is a cultural event nearby!
The ninth deepest lake of Japan is also the third largest of the five Fuji lakes, but also the only one of the five that does not freeze during winter. Similarly with the other five lakes, Lake Motosu offers windsurfing and excursion boats for you to enjoy.
Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park
While it’s not a specific spot but rather a huge area covering 474 square miles, Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park is home to mountains and lakes (some of which are covered above). Because of how close it is to the city of Tokyo, it’s the most visited national park in Japan. You’ll certainly be very busy exploring all of the tourist sites and attractions scattered around.
The world’s oldest hotel just wouldn’t feel authentic enough with modern transportation in close proximity. Fortunately, it’s not completely impossible to get to. Here are the closest train stations and airports to the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan hotel.
- JR Minobu Station – Approx. 60 mins drive away (shuttle service available with advanced reservation)
- Matsumoto Airport – Approx. 2 hours 20 mins drive away
- Shizuoka Airport – Approx. 2 hours 30 mins drive away
There’s also free private parking off site if you have a car.