In the southern alps of Yamanashi Prefecture, nestled in lush valleys in the very heart of nature, you will find the oldest hotel still in operation according to the Guinness Book of World Records. The hotel was first classified as the oldest hotel in history in 2011 and the title was renewed in September 2013.
The Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan began operating in 705 AD, catering to everyone from ancient samurai to modern tourists including Takeda Shingen, Tokugawa Ieyasu and numerous emperors of Japan. The hotel has had 52 generations of the same family operating it since its founding, growing the space and modernizing it slowly with each passing epoch.
The natural hot springs in the area feed the inn’s daily water needs. The numerous open-air and communal hot spring baths, the showers, baths and sinks in each of the guest suites are fed by pure hot spring water, which is neither treated nor heated by any artificial means.
There are only 35 guest suites consisting of two large Japanese-style rooms. The Minobu River runs right behind the hotel and guests can glimpse views of the river from a number of the hotel’s rooms. The cost to rent one of the suites is ¥32,000 per night, but this is considered an ultra-luxurious establishment.
Unlike other typical onsens which operate during certain hours, the baths at Nishiyama Onsen are open 24 hours a day. The onsen water is of the highest quality and the view of the valley from the baths are amazing.
Meals are served kaiseki-style, which is essentially a traditional Japanese multi-course meal. It typically consists of an appetizer, sashimi, a simmered dish, a grilled dish and a steamed course. The chef can elect to include additional dishes at his discretion. Further, kaiseki meals represent a type of art form that seeks to balance taste, texture, appearance and colors of food. To achieve this, only fresh seasonal ingredients are used and are prepared in ways that aim to enhance their flavor. Local ingredients are often included as well. Finished dishes are artfully presented on plates that are chosen to enhance both the appearance and the seasonal theme of the meal. Dishes are beautifully arranged and garnished, often with real leaves and flowers, as well as edible garnishes.
The success of this hotel is its ability to adapt to the requirements of each era and renew their services with modern means. Although it is a ryokan with traditional tatami mat-floored rooms, it’s mixed with elements of modern hotel design appealing to a wide range of guests.
Address: 825 Yujima, Minamikoma-gun, Hayakawa-cho 409-2702, Yamanashi Prefecture (Nishiyama Onsen)