The hotel business is an old business, and the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan in Japan is a testament to this. The establishment has been open since 705 and has been operated by the same family for 52 generations. In fact, Guinness World Records labeled it the world’s oldest hotel in 2011.
The traditional Japanese-style hotel is about three hours southwest of Tokyo and two hours from Mount Fuji. Located in the Akaishi Mountains by natural hot springs, it has both private and public “onsen” baths guests can enjoy.
The hotel’s name, Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkane, is a combination of the Japanese words “nishiyama,” meaning western mountain, “onsen,” referring to the hot springs it sits on and “Keiunkan,” because it was founded during the Keiun, or Kyoun, era. The hotel’s eighth-century founder, Fujiwara Mahito, was a son of an aide to the Japanese emperor Tenji.
Originally, rooms were let in exchange for items like rice and arrowheads since Japan did not have official currency when the hotel first opened.
Famous people who have stayed at the hotel over the years have included Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate of Japan, which ruled from 1603 to 1868, as well as other famous military commanders.
While the hotel has been renovated and updated over many years, it stays connected to its roots by offering access to its traditional onsen baths. The current structure was built in 1983 (previous buildings were washed away in floods in the past), according to Live Japan, and a major renovation was done in 1997.
Its 37 rooms have futon beds, tatami mat floors, and traditional Japanese furniture, and each room has a private bath. Balconies give visitors peaceful views of the river and mountain ravine.
Five hot springs feed the various baths at the hotel and pump out 1,630 liters of hot water per minute.
If you’d like to stay at Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, rooms currently start at around $591 a night and include two meals.
The Japanese Embassy in Canada shared images of the hotel in a tweet.
The world’s oldest hotel, Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, has been in business for over 1000 years. It’s been run by 52 generations of the same family! Here’s what it looks like today: https://t.co/rEtrEXRQNE
Which historic hotels are near you? #Japan #history pic.twitter.com/j92WJs38IK
— Japan Embassy Canada (@JapaninCanada) July 15, 2018
Interestingly, the world’s second oldest hotel is also in Japan. The hotel Houshi Ryokan opened there in 718.
Historic Hotels Spread Across Europe
Some of the other oldest hotels in the world are clustered in the U.K., Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy. They include Zum Roten Baeren in Freiburg, Germany, which opened in 1120 and is considered the oldest hotel in Europe. In fact, the inn is older than the town it’s in.
In England, the Old Bell Hotel Derby, opened 15 years later in 1135 as a stopping place for people and carriages going on pilgrimage to St. Benedict Priory.
The Orso Grigio is set in modern day Italy, which was actually located in Austria when it first opened in 1300. The area was later annexed by Italy during WWII.
In Switzerland, the Hotel Interlaken was first built as a hospital, then as a cloister, a tavern and finally as a guesthouse in 1323.
In Spain, the Parador Santiago de Compostela opened in 1499 to provide shelter to pilgrims visiting the famous burial site of St. James in Santiago de Compostela.
Would you visit the world’s oldest hotel or one of its close runner ups?