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Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan review

Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan is a luxury traditional Japanese inn located in Hayakawa, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan, and is recognized as the oldest continuously operating hotel in the world. It has a rich history dating back to 705 AD.

The front entrance at Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan

Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan is a hot spring resort located in Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan, and it is the oldest continuously operating hotel in the world, as recognised by the Gunness World Records. The hotel has been operating since in 705 AD and founded by a man named Fujiwara Mahito. For over 1,300 years, Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan has been continuously operated by 52 generations of the same family.

Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan is located in a peaceful, natural setting, surrounded by mountains and forests. The hotel has a number of hot spring baths (Japanese onsen) with the hot water sourced directly from the local Hakuho Springs.

Some rooms have private onsen and two of the public onsen can be booked for a 30-minute private session, once per visit. There are four additional open air baths, separated by gender.

Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan offers traditional Japanese-style rooms, a kaiseki restaurant and a moon viewing platform.

I booked a stay for one night at the Nishiyama onsen keiunkan which came with breakfast and dinner included. This was the first time me and my husband stayed in a luxury traditional ryokan with such rich history.

In this guide, I'm going to tell you everything you need to know about a stay at the Nishiyama onsen keiunkan and how to make the most of your visit. I visited Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan independently with my husband and paid for the stay from pocket. This is not a sponsored review in any way. I do recommend that you book a room well in advance.

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How to get to Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan

By car: The best and easiest way to get to Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan is by car. I recommend renting a car from Tokyo and driving for 3 hours to the hotel. I rented a car from Nippon rent-a-car in Shinjuku and drove all the way to the hotel on the express way. Along the route there are services and petrol stations if needed. A good part of the drive will be along the Haya River.

At Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, there is complimentary parking available for guests. Upon arrival, you can leave your car in the front of the hotel and hand your keys over to a staff member. They will then move the car to a designated parking area for you. When you are ready to check out and leave, a staff member will bring your car back to the front of the hotel for you to pick up.

By public transport: If you prefer not to drive to Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, there is a way to get there by public transportation, although it will take longer. Here's how:

  • Take the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Shizuoka Station.
  • Transfer to the Tokaido Line and take it to Minobu Station.
  • From Minobu Station, it will take about an hour to reach the hotel by car. The hotel offers a free shuttle service that leaves from Minobu Station at 1:40 PM daily. However, you must make a reservation in advance to use the shuttle.
  • To return to Tokyo, the shuttle leaves the hotel at 9:50 AM and takes you back to Minobu Station, where you can take the same two train lines back to Tokyo.

Please note that the shuttle service is the only way to get from Minobu Station to the hotel, so it is important to plan your trip accordingly and make a reservation in advance.

The main entrance at Nishiyama onsen

Check-in process

Upon arrival, we were kindly instructed to leave our shoes in the lobby and replace them with dedicated hotel slippers. We were most impressed that our names were written on a piece of paper in the hotel lobby to know exactly where to get our slippers from and how to retrieve our shoes once we leave. Such level of detail is quite rare, even in the most luxurious hotels around the world.

A dedicated member of staff showed us to our room. The outside of our room featured a stunning Japanese landscape garden and again, our names were written right next to the hotel door. This detail made the stay feel so personable and special.

The member of the staff then offered us a welcome drink, explain significant and useful details about the hotel room and how to use and reserve the onsen available at the hotel. We then agreed on the times for our dinner and breakfast and we were left to enjoy the most exquisite traditional Japanese room we've ever seen.

Insider tip: Check in opens at 3 pm sharp, and your room will not be available earlier than this time. I therefore kindly suggest that you plan your arrival for 3 pm as there isn't anything to do in the vicinity to fill the time.

The traditional Japanese guest rooms

Our room was a Japanese style standard room with a river view. Our room features traditional tatami floors, air conditioning, tea making facilities and a dedicated area, separated by Shoji doors, for lounging and relaxing. Shoji doors are traditional light Japanese screens made from wood and a large sheet of rice paper for privacy.

The room featured a table, called chabudai, and traditional chairs, called zaisu. Both the table and chairs are designed to be used while sitting on the floor. To use them, you should sit in Seiza which means you need to kneel first, and rest your buttocks on your heels.

The tatami room also featured a tokonoma, or alcove, for displaying art or flowers.

During dinner time, our tatami room was to be transformed from a day room into a bedroom with futons.

The room featured a wooden closet, with our yukatas. A yukata is an informal kimono made of cotton. Originally, yukata were worn as bathrobes, but today they are worn in a variety of settings, including by guests at ryokans.

Our room had a bathroom with shower and bathtub and a toilet room with a modern Japanese washlet. We found men and women amenities in the bathroom, including Shisheido creams, shampoo, conditioner, bath gels and more.

Our traditional Japanese room with tatami at Nishiyama onsen

Hot Springs

There are six natural hot springs available at the Nishiyama onsen keiunkan. There are four open air baths (two public and two private) and two indoor baths.

The outdoor open air baths are as follows:

  • Boukei springs - this is an observatory outdoor bath made from cypress wood.
  • Hakuho springs - a mountain stream outdoor bath surrounded by natural stone.
  • Kawane - Private outdoor bath which can be booked for 30 minutes. The whole family can enjoy this time and there is no need to separate by gender.
  • Seoto - Another private outdoor bath which can also be booked for 30 minutes.
  • Hikou springs - Observatory indoor bath.
  • Sekifu springs - Observatory indoor bath.

I highly recommend making use of the private bath available to all guests. Just ensure you book your time at check-in. The private baths are not separated by gender and can be used by anyone in your party. Please ensure you familiarise yourself with Japanese etiquette. I explain how to use the onsen correctly by first washing your body well, then entering the water entirely naked. You must not wear a swimming costume or cover yourself with a towel, as to maintain the clarity and cleanliness of the hot spring bath.

The dinner

For dinner, we were served the Mountain Kaiseki Banquet, a delightful feast of quality and seasonal ingredients.

For our dinner, we were welcomed in a main food hall, but to ensure privacy, each table was arranged at an angle from another and separated by a Japanese screen. The table had our name on it, which yet again showed how much detail and thought goes into making the guests feel special. We certainly felt exceptional throughout.

The loveliest staff presented us with a menu for our kaiseki dinner. While I will discuss our kaiseki dinner, please remember that ingredients and dishes are subject to change as the chef always sources ingredients with seasonality in mind. Nevertheless, I want to get you excited about the dinner and show you some marvellous dishes you'll also enjoy here.We started our dinner with a range of delicious appetisers, served with tea.

The second course usually sets the seasonal theme. We received sashimi and yuba.

Sashimi dish at Nishiyama onsen

The third dish was a lidded dish, vegetables with miso in a tomato. The fourth dish was a flame grilled fish served with ice-cold soba and dipping sauce. The fifth dish consisted of three types of beef including A5 Koshu beef with vegetables. We received a small lava grill to cool the meat and vegetables to our preference. The sixth dish was rice with chestnuts, miso soup a small dish of pickles. The seventh dish was our dessert, which was a delightful yuzu jelly.

To say this is one of the best Japanese foods we've had it's an understatement. The whole dinner was a triumph and the service was impeccable.

The night sleep

Our first time sleeping on a tatami floor, we were a little worried we might not sleep so well. To our surprise, we slept like logs. Maybe it was the fantastic dinner, the relaxing time in the open air bath, or just the fact that we were so relaxed.

From our room, we could hear the beautiful white noise of the river, which certainly made it easier to sleep and dream so well. The futons are actually very comfortable and the duvets (called kakebuton) were warm and fluffy. They much thicker than a standard western duvet, which made the entire night sleep so much more comfortable and fuzzy.

The breakfast

I recommend that at first light, before breakfast, you go out to enjoy 30 minutes in one of the open air baths. The fresh mountain air mixed with the hot springs will give you the energy boost you need.

Once you are ready, make your way for breakfast, which will be served at the same table as the dinner.

Breakfast was a bit more casual than the dinner. To my surprise, it didn't come with coffee, only with tea and fresh juice. If I were to find a small issue with my stay, this would be it. I very much require coffee with my breakfast, and I would have liked coffee first thing in the morning. For those of you who desperately need a caffeine kick in the morning, may I suggest that you buy some from the vending machines located within the hotel.

Breakfast consisted of smoked salmon, salad and small dishes. There was a small container with soy to create fresh bean curd (delicious!). On the side, there was also buckwheat and rice porridge.

Breakfast at nishiyama onsen

Conclusion

By now, you can probably tell that we loved our stay at the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan. We booked it because we wanted to experience the world's oldest hotel, but it turned out to be a splendid luxury night in a superb ryokan in the mountains. Honestly, the pictures don't do it justice. The food was delicious, the room so very spacious, the area was outstanding and the onsen were a dream. I can really see why this hotel managed to stay in business for over 1300 years and why it continues to thrive.

I wholeheartedly recommend that you book your stay at the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan. As previously mentioned, this is an honest and transparent review of the hotel. Together with my husband, we booked the hotel via booking.com and paid £350 for one night, in December, and we cannot wait to return for a longer stay in the future.

Cory and G from You Could Travel during dinner at Nishiyama onsen

Interested in more information about Japan? Check out how to plan for a trip to Japan, see how to spend 1-3 weeks in Japan and find all the greatest things to do in the country. For more accommodation related guides, check out where to stay in Tokyo, where to stay in Kyoto and where to stay in Osaka.

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