Founded in 705 CE, Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan is the world’s oldest hotel (as well as the oldest continuously operated business). The 52nd generation proprietor informed me that the hot spring has been continuously producing 52℃ spring water for the last 1311 years! I tried, but couldn’t keep my hands in the water for more than 5 seconds. In order to bring the temperature down to a comfortable 42℃, the bath must be located far enough away from the source of the hot spring for the water to cool. Unlike many other hot spring hotels in Japan, Keiunkan’s baths are open 24 hours a day. On a side note, the hotel is located beside Yugawa (literally Hot Water River).
The busiest season is autumn, but the spring, summer and winter school vacations are also quite busy. The dead of winter is the quietest time of year, and maybe the most beautiful if you are lucky enough to experience a snowfall. In addition, if you can stay in the spring season, you may be fortunate enough to see families of monkeys eating the new buds off the trees while you take a bath. I tried to get an exact date for the monkey visit, but my question was simply met with a polite Japanese smile.
The price for one night is in the US $300 range per person. This price includes dinner and breakfast. The history of the hotel is a bit sketchy as all of the family records were washed away in a typhoon 57 years ago (presumably this means the hotel was washed away as well). However, famous patrons include the sixth female monarch of Japan, Empress Koken (718-770), and many military commanders of the Warring States Period such as Takeda Shingen (1521 – 1573) and Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543 – 1616).
The hotel may have been reconstructed many times, but don’t forget that people have been soaking in these waters since the early 8th century!
Take the JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line to JR Shizuoka Station, change to the Limited Express Fujikawa bound for JR Minobu Station (departures at 8:17, 9:41, 11:41, 13:39, 15:40, 17:40, 19:40). You can also access Minobu from JR Shinjuku Station in 3 hours by taking an express train to JR Kofu Station on the JR Chuo Line. Once you arrive in Kofu, you will change to the JR Minobu Line for JR Minobu Station. Take a bus from JR Minobu Station to Narada (1.5 hours) and get off at Nishiyama Onsen-mai.
I heard that this property went bankrupt not too long after I wrote this blog post. This means the end of the family dynasty after 52 generations. However, the hotel is still operating under the same name and I assume nothing else has changed.