Spa hotels are all the rage, with both mass chain and individual luxury hotels across the globe now offering treatments, saunas and steam rooms, pools, gyms and other spa facilities to the discerning guest. Despite the recent boom, however, the spa hotel isn’t a new phenomenon: in fact, the very first such hotel opened in Japan 1,300 years ago and has been in continuous operation ever since.
The Hōshi Ryokan hotel and spa can be found in Komatsu in Japan’s Ishikawa Prefecture. It opened all the way back in 718 AD. Named after its founding family (who still run the hotel today, 46 generations later), its hot springs are said to have healing powers. These springs are said to have been founded by Buddhist disciple Garyo Hōshi, whose master was travelling in the local area and saw a vision in his dreams. This vision? A hot spring that had the power to heal the souls of all those who bathed in it. The master – Taicho Daishi – travelled to the place in his dream and uncovered the hot spring, where he immersed sick locals in the water and saw them cured immediately. Hōshi was then instructed to build a spa business on the site… and the rest is history!
Since it opened in 718 AD the Hōshi Ryokan has stood the test of time. Despite the coming and going of numerous Japanese emperors, the rise and fall of the Samurai and the Ninja and two world wars, it holds the accolade of not only being the world’s oldest spa hotel but also the world’s oldest business to be in continuous operation since it began.
Hōshi Ryokan has evolved over the centuries and can now accommodate up to 450 guests. Visitors can enjoy a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, relax in the beautiful gardens, sample menus of authentic Japanese cuisine and stay in traditionally decorated rooms – they can also indulge in the hot springs, with separate men’s and women’s baths also available.
Favoured by those who want an authentic Japanese experience, the “ryokan” in its name is the Japanese word for a guesthouse or inn. Generally, ryokan rooms feature floors made from reed mats (known as tatami), sliding doors to enter the guest rooms, futon bedding, a dinner and breakfast offering and communal baths. In this respect, the Hōshi Ryokan maintains its traditional ryokan values: a chance to relax and unwind in traditional Japanese style, complete with hot spring spa facilities that are guaranteed to refresh and revive… and they are quite an experience!
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