The Oldest Hotel in the World: Japan’s Houshi Ryokan
Built around the year 718, the Houshi Ryokan in the Hokuriku area of Japan is the oldest running hotel in the world. This magnificent traditional structure houses a natural hot spring, or onsen, with restorative powers that lies at the root of the Houshi Ryokan’s 1300-year history.
The story goes that the great Buddhist teacher Taicho Daishi, while practicing asceticism in the forests of the sacred Mt. Hakusan, was visited by the deity of the mountain in a dream. The deity explained to Taicho that in the village of Awazu he would find an underwater hot spring that had been bestowed with healing powers by the Physician of Souls, Yakushi Nyorai. The deity of the mountain further instructed Taicho to unearth the onsen with the help of the people of Awazu, professing that its restorative powers will serve them forever. After uncovering the sacred spring, Taicho instructed the sick to immerse themselves in the onsen where – according to local legend – their health was immediately restored. After this miraculous event, Taicho Daishi then ordered his disciple, Garyo Houshi, to build and operate a spa at that very site.
Generation after generation of Garyo Houshi’s descendants have maintained and operated the ryokan throughout its 1300-year existence. The legacy of proprietors are known as zengoro. The first zengoro, Garyo Houshi, was the second son of the local logger who had guided Taicho Daishi to the top of Mt. Hakusan, Gengoro Sasakiri. Forty-six generations later, the present zengoro keeps the Garyo legacy alive.
Houshi Ryokan offers the best in traditional Japanese ryokan amenities, and the onsen facilities are second to none. With its claims backed by the Guinness Book of World Records, Houshi Ryokan in Japan’s Hokuriku region of Ishikawa prefecture is a must see destination.