Dōgo Onsen, that is said to be the oldest hot springs, has a history of over 3,000 years. Dōgo Onsen, that stands in a hot spring town, is the first in the country to be designated as an Important Cultural Asset as a public bath. The current wooden, three floor building was restored in 1894 and currently undergoing repairs in 2019 for preservation purposes. The break room on the second floor and above are closed, but the first floor bath, “Kami no Yu” can be used. It is said that the image of hot spring was used for the hot spring in the Ghibli film “Spirited Away”, and there is no end to the amount of tourists from inside and outside Japan.
This time we will go through the details regarding Dōgo Onsen and Dōgo Onsen Honkan.
About Dogo Onsen
There are various theories as to how Dogo Onsen came to be established. The white heron motif and miscellaneous goods stand out, so this time we will introduce the “Legend of the White Heron”.
Once upon a time, there was a white heron suffering from a foot injury. The white heron found the hot spring gushing out from among the rocks and tried soaking its foot in the water. As a result the pain of the injury was healed and the white heron was able to fly away.
This kind of story is how the effectiveness of Dogo Onsen was passed down.
Dogo Onsen Honkan
The Beauty of Architecture
You could say that the Dogo Onsen Honkon is the symbol of Dogo Onsen. It was awarded 3 stars in the Michelin Green Guide Japan. The main building is very historical architecture built in 1894. After that, it was added onto and the each room, hallway and flights of stairs are laid out in a complex way, so it is just like a maze inside.
From a glance you would think it was pure Japanese style architecture, but they actually included many western style techniques. For example, the window of the highest section of the building has glass in it and when you shine light through it, it glows red. This light becomes a landmark when walking at night.
Influence for Studio Ghibli’s Movie
It is also said that this architecture is a model for very famous animation “Spirited Away” by Studio Ghibli. The building is worth seeing and is a perfect photo spot. You might want to see the building both morning and night. The onsen opens at 6 in the morning with sound of Japanese drum. At night the building is lit up in the night and it is very beautiful.
Setting for Novel of Soseki Natsume
Dogo Onsen is also famous as the setting for Soseki Natsume's novel “Botchan”. Soseki Natsume is one of the most famous Japanese novelists. At the main building, there is a room called “Botchan’s room” and it was the place Soseki Natsume relaxed after a nice hot onsen bath. Some pictures are exhibited at the room. It is entrance free if you paid for the onsen.
The Latest Information about Dogo Onsen Honkan
From January 15th 2019, they are keeping Kami no Yu in business on the first floor while the second and third floors are closed for renovations. Even though it is having construction work done, so you can still enjoy the town, they reopened “Sora no Sanpo Michi” (Walk in the Sky) at Mt Kanmuri south of Dōgo Onsen Honkan in January 2019.
- Name: Dogo Onsen Honkan
- Address: 5-6 Dogo Yunomachi, Matsuyama, Ehime 790-0842
- Access: About 25 minutes from Iyotetsu Railway JR Matsuyama Eki-mae station bound for Iyo Railway inner city train Dogo Onsen station. From there it is about 10 minutes on foot from Dogo Onsen Station
- Opening Hours: Kami no Yu downstairs 6: 00-23: 00 * Last entry is 22:30 * Facility usage is within 1 hour per person
- Admission fee: Kami no Yu downstairs Adult 420 yen, Child 160 yen
- Other holidays: Open year round (Temporary closure on December 1st)
Dōgo Onsen Annex Asuka no Yu
Even if the Honkan is closed, there is actually another facility next door where you can spend over half a day enjoying the onsen if you wish, so no need to worry. The name of that facility is “Dōgo Onsen Annex Asuka no Yu”.
About Asuka no Yu
Asuka no Yu is a public bath house that was build using architecture techniques from the Japan’s Asuka period. They provide “beauty water” direct from the hot spring water source without adding extra heat or water, which is rare around the country.
The facility is an open, large public bath that has something the Honkan does not have, an outdoor bath. Furthermore, there is a 60 Tatami mat sized banquet hall/break room, 5 private break rooms and there is even a tea service. Also, a special mention should go to the special bathroom they have.
The Special Bathrooms of the Private Rooms
If you book in advance, you can get a private room for you and your family or friends. Here it is best to bathe naked, but you can wear an old fashioned Yokui robe called “Yuchō”. Reservations for special bathrooms should be made 3 months in advance.
- Name: Dogo Onsen Bekkan Asuka no Yu
- Address: 19-22, Dogo Yunomachi, Matsuyama, Ehime 790-0842
- Access: About 25 minutes from Iyotetsu Railway JR Matsuyama Eki-mae station bound for Iyo Railway inner city train Dogo Onsen station. From there it is about 10 minutes on foot from Dogo Onsen Station.
- Opening Hours: 6:00 to 23:00 * Last admission at 22:30 * Facility usage is limited to 90 minutes per person.