Japan’s Oldest Ryokan (Hotel Inn) With Over 1300 Years Of History

Japan has been established for millennia, so it’s no wonder some of the areas in Japan have been refined and well established for centuries as well. However, one of the oldest businesses to exist in Japan is the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan Hotel. The ryokan (hotel inn) has been in business for over 1300 years, and it has been owned by the same family during that time. 

This makes the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan Hotel the oldest in the world. Guinness World Records has even named it as such. The hotel is so old, in fact, that when it first opened its doors, guests paid through bartering items as modern Japanese currency didn’t exist at the time.

Suite, total-hinoki free-flowing guestroom bath Photo Courtesy of Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan

The History Of The Hotel 

The hotel was first opened by Fujiwara Mahito all the way back in 570 AD. He opened his hotel in the second year of the Keiun era.

This is where part of the hotel’s name comes from. Fujiwara Mahito was also the son of Emperor Tenji’s aid, which drew in several emperors and royal families to the hotel over the years. 

The hotel is situated at the bottom of the Akaishi Mountains, also known as the Southern Alps. The mountain make up the Japanese Alps alongside the Hida Mountains and Kiso Mountains.

The scenic mountain views add to the hotel’s allure, as well as the hot spring water that comes directly from the Hakuho Springs. 

Sukiya-zukuri, guest room with moon-viewing platform photo courtesy of Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan

Throughout the years, the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan Hotel has seen numerous historical figures come in and out of its doors. When Japan was unified after the war, Tokugawa Ieyasu, who was an instrumental figure in unifying Japan, visited the hotel more than once. 

No matter if you are a celebrity or a tourist, you are greeted with the same kind of hospitality that Japan is known for by staff wearing traditional kimonos.

Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan Hotel Via Trip Advisor

That being said, the continuous patronage of the esteemed shogun, samurai, celebrities, and military members have helped garner the hotel the reputation it has maintained for centuries. 

In 1997, there were some major renovations completed on the hotel. They managed to upgrade a lot of the rooms over the years as well but kept the integrity of the original infrastructure intact.

It’s quite impressive how each generation has been able to modernize amenities and upgrade decor while still respecting the original beauty of the old hotel. 

Inside The Hotel 

In order to keep up with the times, the hotel has been made over many times in order to keep the interior relevant and stylish. Inside the hotel, there are 37 rooms available for guests to stay in.

There are several standard rooms with all the basic, necessary amenities, as well as more luxurious rooms with open-air baths and more accouterments. 

Each room is decorated in a very clean, aesthetically-pleasing traditional Japanese style. They are designed to help alleviate stress and create a calm environment to enjoy.

Each room offers magnificent views overlooking mountains and ravines. Rooms are equipped with traditional tatami mats as well, which are common in Japanese homes

Suite with free-flowing open-air bath, Kitadake Photo Courtesy Of Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan

There are attractions that have drawn tourists and visitors alike to the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan Hotel that have stayed intact over the hundreds of years it has been in business. 

When guests enter, they get a truly authentic Japanese experience. Guests will be asked to remove their outdoor shoes when entering the hotel, which is a common custom in Japanese homes. They will also be given traditional robes that they are able to wear throughout the hotel. 

The Hot Springs

One attraction that has been a part of the hotel since its inception is the hot springs, which overlook some truly breathtaking views and scenery.

There are both public and private hot spring options for guests who don’t mind company or guests who want to take in the beautiful atmosphere all on their own. 

Mountain stream outdoor bath, Hakuho springs Photo Courtesy of Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan Hotel

There is the Mochitani no Yu hot bath, which has drawn in a bustling crowd of famous people and samurai from near and far. The bath is filled with water that comes from the hot springs.

There is also the Hakuho springs mountain stream outdoor bath, which is covered at the top but open at the sides to be able to overlook some breathtaking scenery. 

There are two private outdoor baths called Kawane and Seoto. They are much smaller than the other outdoor baths but are just as scenic.

Finally, there are two observatory baths called Hikou springs and Sekifu springs. They are both indoors, with large windows overlooking natural beauty outside. 

There are showers you are expected to use before entering the hot baths that are used by all guests, to ensure the best hygienic practices. While it wasn’t always the case, there are several private baths that you can keep all to yourself as well, and they can be accessed directly from your room. 

Observatory outdoor bath, Boukei springs Photo Courtesy Of Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan Hotel

This water is believed to have healing properties and radiates positive energy. They also contain low alkaline properties such as sodium that are said to help aid in alleviating pain and abdominal discomfort and can contribute to healthy skin.

There are also drinking water fountains that get water from the hot springs, meaning you can get all of those benefits from the inside out. 

The owners of Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan Hotel are also not satisfied with just one Guinness World Record; they are hoping their hot springs will help earn them a second one.

They are hoping to win the world’s most productive hot spring record, being that their hot springs and baths pump more than 264 gallons of naturally heated water every minute. 

The Restaurant

There is a restaurant within the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan hotel that offers a small, curated banquet menu. The chef creates the menu based on seasonal food options and takes a lot of time designing a feast for many to enjoy. 

The food is served kaiseki style, which is a traditional Japanese dinner served in multiple courses. When dining in the restaurant, it is said that you must try their famous Koshu beef.

This beef is said to be some of the best quality beef you can get anywhere in the world. 

Attractions Close By 

The Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan hotel is located within the same region as Mount Fuji, a very popular sight for tourists to see during their trip to Japan. While you can’t see the sacred mountain from your hotel room, it’s a short distance away. 

Mount Fuji is very special to Japanese people and is significant to the Shinto and Buddhist faiths. Surrounding the famous mountains are several caves and lakes. Many of these natural areas around Mount Fuji are also very special and sacred to Japan. 

Mount Fuji In Spring

The Zenko-ji Temple is also a car ride away from the hotel. This temple is quite large and was built in Japan’s Edo period.

It is also considered a national treasure to Japan and is sacred to the Buddhist faith. It is also considered to be one of the largest Buddhist temples in Japan

Jigokudani Monkey Park

If you’re an animal lover, you’ll want to take a drive over to the Jigokudani Monkey Park. Here, you can learn more about Japanese monkeys and view them enjoying the beautiful hot springs they use themselves in the park

The Price

While this hotel is somewhat on the expensive side, it’s absolutely worth the cost. You’re getting to enjoy a substantial piece of Japanese history, not only in Japan but in the entire world as it’s officially the oldest hotel in the world.

The modern amenities and the sense of peace it will bring to you make the expense well worth the price. 

Prices can vary depending on where you stay in the hotel, but you can expect to pay approximately between 30000 to 45000 yen per night, which is approximately between $250-$400 USD. These prices are not exact, and can possibly change, but it’s a ballpark number range. 

A Home Away From Home 

The hotel is also located in a very convenient area for tourists in the Yamanashi Prefecture.  It’s a fairly secluded hotel that allows you to enjoy peace and serenity away from the business of life.

It’s a hidden oasis of sorts to unwind and destress while taking in a unique piece of Japanese history. 

Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan Hotel Officical Website

Even though there are many attractions and sights to see a short driving distance away, they are far enough from the hotel that you truly feel like you’ve escaped somewhere incredibly remote and tranquil. 

All of this, as well as upgraded amenities that change over time, and the traditional elements have all led to rave reviews of the hotel over the years.

My fascination with Japan began several years back at a roadside bonsai stand while on vacation. I became more interested in the where and why's more than the trees themselves. My love of Bonsai led me to further research my interest in the gardens where they originated from and the places and people that surrounded those little trees. My curiosity was well rewarded upon visiting Saitama where the National Bonsai Museum was located and Omiya Village the bonsai mecca for lovers of this ancient art form. Exploring many towns and villages and even making my way to Japan's furthest southern prefecture of Okinawa. I hope to share my love of this wonderful and exotic place with all those who want to know more about Japan.