Hoshi Ryokan – The Oldest Hotel in the World
Inns and hotels have played a crucial role in the lives of travelers, ever since ancient times. In Europe, inns are believed to have been invented by the Romans, more than two thousand years ago, but most of the original ones have either been destroyed by the elements or are nothing more than ruins. But there is one hotel that has withstood the test of time and has been welcoming tourists for the last 1,300 years, the Hoshi Ryokan.
The story of the Hoshi Ryokan began in 717, when Taicho Daishi, one of the greatest Buddhism teachers in the history of Japan, climbed Mount Hakusan to perform his training exercises. One night, while he was asleep, the spirit of the mountain appeared in his sleep and spoke to him of a miraculous underground spring, located in Awazu village, 20-24 kilometers from the base of the mountain. He was instructed to travel to this wondrous place and, with the help of the villagers, unearth the hot spring that would cure the people of all their illnesses.
Taicho did as the deity commanded and revealed the restorative treasure the people of Awazu had no idea existed. He advised the sick to bathe in the magical waters of the spring and their health was magically restored. Rumors of the curative spring of Awazu spread all across the land and more people traveled here hoping they could be cured of their sicknesses. Taicho Daishi ordered his disciple, Garyo Hoshi, to build a spa around the magical spring that would serve the people forever.
Now, nearly 1,300 years later, the Hoshi Ryokan is run by the 46th generation of the same Hoshi family. Apart from being the oldest hotel in the world, Hoshi Ryokan is also the worldâ€™s oldest continuously operating company. Even though it retains the look of a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn), Hoshi has expanded and evolved significantly throughout the centuries and is now able to accommodate 450 people in 100 spacious rooms.
In Japanese culture, parallels are often drawn between life and the four seasons, so at Hoshi Ryokan the four buildings of the establishment have been named Shinshun no Yakata (early spring building), Haru no Yakata (spring building), Natsu no Yakata (summer building), and Aki no Yakata (autumn building), in the hope that they will bring happiness to their guests. Each room in the hotel also bears a name that defines a season in Japanese haiku.
More than one millennium after its unearthing, the spring of Awazu, located inside the worldâ€™s oldest hotel, is still treasured as a way to cure illnesses and relieve stress. In the old days, the sick bathed in the curative waters in three seven-day cycles. After the first seven days, they believed the sickness had been shaken up, after the second cycle they were cured and after the third and final cycle their bodies were conditioned and more resistant to illness. Nowadays the indoor and outdoor pools are used for relaxation and as a cure for rheumatism or chronic skin diseases.
Located in a charming Japanese setting and featuring top-class accommodations and services, itâ€™s no wonder Hoshi Ryokan has defied time and still remains one of the top hotels in Japan.