Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan: An eternal haven in Japan’s core and world’s oldest hotel

ByAndrea Thompson

April 29, 2024

Nestled among the Akaishi Mountains in the Yamanashi Prefecture, Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan is a living testament to history, tradition, and unwavering hospitality.

Established in 705 AD by Fujiwara Mahito, this Onsen (which translates to Japanese hot spring spa) has been operated by the same family for 52 generations, making it a Guinness World Record holder for the oldest hotel in the world.

History and Origins: The Onsen lies at the foot of the Akaishi Mountains, drawing its hot water directly from the local Hakuho Springs.  Over the many centuries it has attracted bathers from every corner of Japan include the current Emperor Naruhito. The springs’ popularity led to continuous development, evolving from rudimentary pools in caves to more refined wooden huts and, eventually, dedicated lodgings.

The Experience: Today, Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan offers 37 rooms, each adorned with tatami mats, classic art, and a serene atmosphere. The staff wears traditional nibu-shiki kimono, emphasizing the timeless ambiance. Guests can enjoy password-free Wi-Fi, but the real allure lies in the natural hot springs.  There are five hot spring sources which gush nearly 1,630 litres of water per minute.

These springs have health benefits including alleviating gastrointestinal disease, muscle pains and constipation as well as providing benefits to skin.  Plans are under way to pump double the capacity of pumped water. Imagine soaking in these rejuvenating waters while surrounded by breath taking mountain views.

Who visits now: Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan is frequented by travellers in search of peace, contrasting with its past visitors of samurai and shogun. The inn’s renovation has introduced modern amenities while preserving its historical allure. Guests can savor locally-sourced dishes, such as the esteemed A5 Koshu beef, in this traditional Japanese ryokan. The addition of karaoke and moon-viewing platforms enriches the stay, yet the hot springs remain the quintessential attraction. Open to both the fatigued wanderer and the tranquility seeker, Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan extends a warm welcome to all.

The Future: In 2017, when no family members were inclined to take over, Kenjiro Kawano, who was not related to the owner, assumed the presidency under the holding company Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan Ltd. As the world’s oldest hotel, Keiunkan remains a testament to the enduring hospitality that has supported it for more than a thousand years.

So, if you seek a timeless retreat steeped in history, venture to Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan. Let the soothing waters wash away the years, and immerse yourself in a centuries old legacy.