Nestled among a number of picturesque hot springs in the mountains of Kyoto, the traditionally-styled Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan in the Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan, is recognized as the world’s oldest hotel, inn, and possibly even business in general, catering to everyone from ancient samurai to modern tourists for over a thousand years.
Originally established in 705 CE, the traditional “onsen” or “hot spring” was the brainchild of the son of the reigning emperor’s aid. The natural hot springs in the area allowed for the creation of a number of healing baths that drew visitors and military men from all around to come and relax. Among these early patrons were a number of samurai and famed shogun, giving the spa a bit more notoriety still.
From its inception, the Keiunkan onsen has been passed down within the original family through the centuries. 52 different generations of descendants have cared for and operated the inn, growing the space and modernizing it slowly with each passing epoch.
Today the site is considerably larger than it was over a thousand years ago, but both the look and feel of the inn have remained surprisingly unchanged. Despite modern amenities, the simple, calming design of the spaces and the natural mountains surrounding them make it feel as though it is still 705. Keiunkan currently holds the Guinness World Record for oldest hotel and is now aiming for another, world’s most productive hot spring, thanks to their new bath that pumps over a thousand liters of naturally heated water per minute.