World’s second-oldest hotel offers new self-service stays to cope during pandemic

Japanese onsen ryokan adapts to the new normal after being in business for over 1,300 years.

Japan is home to a large number of long-established businesses, including two of the oldest hotels in the world: Yamanashi Prefecture’s Keiunkan and Ishikawa’s Houshi Ryokan.

Houshi Ryokan held the Guinness World Record title for the world’s oldest hotel until 2011, when Keiunkan pipped it at the post, taking the title after its opening date of 705 was found to have preceded Houshi’s 718 founding by thirteen years.

▼ Houshi Ryokan is so old it’s even been depicted in paintings from the Edo Period (1603-1868).

While the two hotels have been accommodating guests–including luminaries like daimyo Takeda Shingen, shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, and numerous emperors–for over 1,300 years, both are now sadly struggling due to the drop in visitors brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

The hotels have since discounted their prices to help entice guests, which means people who couldn’t previously afford to pay the usual 30,000 yen (US$271.14) ballpark fee for a room can now fulfil their dreams of a stay and a soak in the historic hot spring waters. Our Japanese-language reporter Seiji Nakazawa is one of those people, and he didn’t waste any time in making a booking, choosing to head out to Houshi Ryokan for a night to remember.

▼ Arriving after sunset makes the legendary ryokan appear even more atmospheric.

Stepping into the lobby, Seiji was greeted by dark wood panels, paper-screen lanterns, and a high ceiling that exudes a sense of old-school luxury.

…continue reading