Dogo Onsen is the oldest hot spring in Japan. It is located in Matsuyama City which is also home to Matsuyama Castle. Dogo Onsen is believed to be over 3000 years old and is associated with many legends. One of the legends is of the “Tama no Ishi” or “Soul Stone”. Once there was deity who was struck with a fatal illness. So another deity made him take a bath in the Dogo hot spring. The bath managed to completely heal him and he started dancing with joy on a stone. This made him leave a footprint on the stone. This stone can still be seen in Dogo Onsen today!
When you first reach Dogo Onsen, you will notice that it looks out of place! There is a lone traditional building surrounded by modern buildings. It looks as though someone travelled back in time and scooped up a building from the past and put it in the middle of a modern city! Though the hot spring is over 3000 years old, the building is around 120 years old.The building itself looks incredibly beautiful! It black roofs and green roofs. The green ones are fireproof roofs made of copper which has turned green due to oxidation. There is also a conspicuous little tower with red windows in which there is a Taiko drum. The drum is beaten to signify that the Onsen is open (usually at 6am). The building looks even more beautiful at night when it is illuminated.
Dogo Onsen was also one of the inspirations of the bathhouse in Miyazaki Hayao’s “Spirited away”. If you look closely, the roof ornamentation of the bathhouse looks similar to that of Dogo Onsen.Inside you’ll find all the amenities of any other Japanese bathhouse such as a massage chair, vending machines for toiletries, lockers etc.
On to the actual baths! There are a few specialised baths:
Kami no Yu
The “Kami no Yu” or “bath of the gods” is the main bath and is open to the public has two versions – The women’s bath and the men’s bath. Both are somewhat similar in design. Both are big and have tile works on the wall depicting some of the legends of Dogo Onsen.
Tama no Yu
The “Tama no Yu” or “bath of the soul” used to be exclusively for members/attendants of the imperial family. This is a small bath that is more expensive than the regular bath. It is also less crowded.
This is a special area that is reserved exclusively for the imperial family. The “Gyokuza no Ma” is found here which is a bath exclusively for the emperor of Japan.
The temperature of the bath is around 40 degrees celsius. Hence, there is a lounge on one of the upper floors where you can cool off. The lounge is large and open area with a flooring of Tatami mats. It’s easy to relax here and sip a cup of Japanese tea and maybe have a snack.
Dogo Onsen is different from other hot springs in Japan in the sense that you’re not allowed to stay overnight. However there are many traditional inns nearby where you can stay. Another unique feature is that tattoos are allowed in Dogo Onsen! So those of you who were worried about being barred entry due to tattoos have nothing to fear!
Please relax and enjoy Dogo Onsen!
・Tokyo Sta.(Nozomi Shinkansen,It takes takes 3hours 20minutes. )—-Okayama Sta.(It takes 2hours 40minutes)—-Matsuyama Sta.(It takes 25minutes)—Dogo Sta.
・Osaka Sta.(Nozomi Shinkansen,It takes 50minutes)—-Okayama Sta.(It takes 2hours 40minutes)—-Matsuyama Sta.(It takes 25minutes)—Dogo Sta.
・Tokyo International Haneda Airport(It takes 75minutes)—Matsuyama Airport(By bus, It takes 40minutes)—Dogo Sta.
・Osaka International Airport(It takes 50minutes)—Matsuyama Airport(By bus, It takes 40minutes)—Dogo Sta.