Unrivaled Tradition at Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan

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Keiunkan, where 52 generations of proprietors have perfected the art of Japanese hospitality, is the oldest hotel in the world.

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This is an example of one of Keiunkan’s 34 guest rooms. This particular guest room is 72 square meters. It has two separate tatami-mat rooms, and a private outdoor bath. This deluxe room costs about ¥40,000 per person, per night. Of course the price includes traditional Japanese breakfast and dinner. Other rooms can be had for as little as ¥25,000 per person.

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This is the entrance to one of Keiunkan’s six distinct baths. The baths alternate between accommodating male and female bathers. The symbol in the background (男) shows that this bath is currently accommodating male bathers.

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Although the onsen produces 52-degree-Celsius water at its source, the average temperature of the baths is a comfortable 43 degrees. The hotel is blessed with so much hot water that the entire hotel is naturally heated during the winter months.

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This is the walkway to the hotel’s private outdoor bath. The bath can be booked free of charge by guests who would like absolute privacy. Keiunkan understands that some guests from other cultures might not feel comfortable in a communal bath, but that should not be a barrier to enjoying one of Japan’s greatest luxuries.

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This is the doorway leading to the private bath. The bath can be booked for up to 30 minutes at a time. I am sure that it could be booked several times a day by the same guest as the baths at Keiunkan stay open 24 hours a day. In addition to having trees and shrubs to protect your privacy, there are spotlights that light up the mountainside at night. It must be a glorious experience to sit and soak while you watch the forest at night.

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This particular bath on the roof is most popular with female (女) guests. The entire bath is made of fragrant cedar. The bath water is tropical blue. The Hotel is at its busiest in the fall and early summer, but the winter is apparently very beautiful as well. I was particularly struck by how well maintained the hotel was. The baths were scrubbed to perfection.

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Keiunkan also has indoor baths for those who want to escape the elements. This particular bath is entirely constructed of wood. The atmosphere is intoxicating. It is hard to imagine that anyone would leave Keiunkan feeling disappointed. The sense of luxury is overpowering.

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This is a distinctly unique hotel that celebrates wafu (Japanese style). No opportunity is lost to remind you that you are in a very special place. Famous patrons include the sixth female monarch of Japan, Empress Koken (718-770), and many military commanders of the warring period such as Takeda Shingen (1521 – 1573) and Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543 – 1616).

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The hotel has spared no expense in order to give its guests an unforgettable experience. Where else will you find urushi (Japanese lacquer) doors? If you come to Japan, and don’t visit Keiunkan, you will have missed an experience that has been 1311 years in the making. There is truly no other experience like this in the world.

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Even the trees in the garden receive the royal treatment. This protective winter covering surly doesn’t need to be so elaborate, but nothing is too good for Keiunkan.

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My visit to Keiunkan was topped off with a display of the powerful force that has drawn bathers here for 14 centuries. Nishyama Onsen Keiunkan is a legendary refuge for the tired and weary. Whether you are an exhausted feudal lord recovering from battle, or a global traveller looking for an unforgettable experience, Keiunkan has got you covered.

Getting There:

Take the JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line to JR Shizuoka Station, change to the JR Tokaido Main Line for JR Fuji Station and then board the northbound JR Minobu Line for JR Minobu Station (1.5 hours). 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.

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