Earlier in the month, we harped about the oldest continuously operating library in the world, an honor belonging to Saint Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt. Well this time around, from books and manuscripts we come to concept of accommodation and how it has played its genuine historical role throughout the centuries. The case in point relates to the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, an ‘old’ establishment situated in Hayakawa, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan. Pertaining to the ‘old’ part, this hot spring hotel holds the Guinness World Record as the oldest inn in operation, with a timeline of 1,300 years. And the really interesting part is, the hotel has seemingly never changed its ‘family’ ownership pattern – with 52 successive generations of descendants operating the inn for over a millennium, thus alluding to the preservation of a successful business.
Originally established in 705 AD, the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan was originally established by Fujiwara Mahito – a Japanese aristocrat who was possibly the son of the reigning emperor’s aide. In any case, the site itself was suitable to a resort because of its profusion of natural hot springs (‘onsen‘) that often attracted visitors from afar. Suffice it to say, the accommodation business started to boom, with the healing baths of this inn even catering for centuries to eminent bureaucrats, shoguns and their samurai retinues.
Now as for the current state of affairs, the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan has been transformed into an upscale four-star establishment with some modern features (like karaoke). However the owners have also taken a conscious decision to preserve much of the hotel’s genuine historical flavor. This translates to use of the traditional tatami mats, the serving of local delicacies (like the Koshu beef), the conservation of the scenic surroundings, and of course the maintenance of the natural hot springs the place is renowned for. Pertaining to the latter scope, the hotel management is even aiming for a new Guinness World Record that would entail the world’s most productive hot spring. This is expected to be achieved with the help of a new bath system that has the capacity to pump over hundreds of gallons of naturally heated water per minute.