Famous Hot Springs in Japan: Dogo Onsen (Ehime Prefecture)
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The oldest hot spring in Japan with a 3,000-year history, Dogo Onsen is also one of the most famous hot springs in Japan. The main building is the symbol of Dogo Onsen and everyone who comes to Dogo Onsen visits this building. It received two stars in the Michelin sightseeing guide book in Japan. This public bath is a must-see spot in Japan.
It is considered to be the oldest hot spring in Japan because some 3,000-year-old earthenware was excavated here. It is said that a villager found the hot spring when he saw a white heron bathing its leg in the hot spring water to heal its injury and shortly after, flew away. Since then, many people loved to come here and some great Japanese novelists are known to be among them. The photograph of Dogo Onsen’s main building shown below was taken around the late 1800s to early 1900s.
The colorless and odorless simple hot spring provides relief for neuralgia, rheumatism, stomach or skin trouble, gout, anemia and so on.
1. The symbol of Dogo Onsen, the Main Building
The only thing you have to do in Dogo Onsen is to relax in the main building. The building overwhelms anyone who visits here.
This building provided the inspiration for the Ghibli animated film, Spirited Away, and is said to be a model of “Yuya” in the film. Its appearance is so gorgeous that it looks like a hotel, but it actually is a public bath. Dogo Onsen opens as early as 6 am in the morning every day.
See the Japanese drum inside the building with a white heron figure on top of its roof? This drum is called the clock drum and the drumbeat is heard at certain times of the day.
2. Two Main Baths in the Main Building of Dogo Onsen
Navigating your way through the main building is complicated and you might need some guidance. The fee is set depending on which bath and lounge you use. Please check the official website for details. The cheapest plan “Kami-no-Yu Kaika” is without lounge use. You can’t appreciate the charm of Dogo Onsen fully this way. The plans “Kami-no-Yu Nikaiseki” or above are recommended.
“Kami-no-Yu” for women has one large bathroom.
“Tama-no-Yu” for men on the second floor. “Tama-no-Yu” for women is smaller than this.
3. Tasteful Lounges for each plan
The building was reconstructed in 1894 and it has different lounges for each plan. If you choose the plan “Kami-no-Yu Nikaiseki”(840 yen for one hour), you can relax at a great hall of 90㎡ with a fabulous terrace decorated by the works of craftsmen. The hall is a relaxing space equipped with yukata (summer, cotton kimono), towels, luggage baskets, and zabutons (floor cushions). You are also provided with some tea and rice crackers after bathing. The best seat here is the space by the window through which you can enjoy a view of the town.
The plan “Tama-no-Yu Nikaiseki” allows you to use both “Kami-no-Yu” and “Tama-no-Yu” and the lounge which is about 46㎡. The lounge is not usually very crowded, so you can enjoy some quiet time. Here as well, you will be provided with some tea and rice crackers (1,250 yen for one hour).（Source：松山観光コンベンションビューロー）
The most recommended plan is “Tama-no-Yu Sankaiseki Koshitsu”(1,550 yen for 1 hour 20 minutes) which gives you access to both “Kami-no-Yu,” “Tama-no-Yu” and the private lounge. It is a popular plan that you cannot book beforehand. However, it can be available if you don’t mind waiting a little because the usage time per person is limited.
The regular service of tea and rice crackers is graded up to tea and bocchan dango, rice cakes, a famous confection of Matsuyama. It is a cool system, isn’t it?（Source：ミニバラ）
Dogo Onsen, Main Building （道後温泉本館）
Address: 5-6 Dogoyunomachi, Matsuyama-shi, Ehime （愛媛県松山市道後湯之町5-6）
Phone No.: +81-89-921-5141
4. Taste Dogo Beer after Taking a Bath
There is nothing like a nice glass of beer after taking a bath. Enjoy the local beer of Dogo Onsen at “Dogo Bakushu-kan” which stands most conveniently just in front of Dogo Onsen main building. They also offer some menu good for lunch such as tasty taimeshi (rice with minced sea bream), a specialty of Ehime.(Source：第２スタヂアム）
Dogo Bakushu-kan （道後麦酒館）
Address: 20-13 Dogoyunomachi, Matsuyama-shi, Ehime （愛媛県松山市道後湯之町20-13）
Phone No.: +81-89-945-6866
Opening Hours: 11:00-22:00
Open all year round
5. The Shopping Arcade, Dogo Haikara-dori
The shopping arcade “Dogo Haikara-dori” lined with various shops leads you to Dogo Onsen Station.(Source：きままな旅日記）
Ichiroku Tart is one of the famous confections in Ehime and often chosen for a souvenir. It is a Swiss roll-shaped sweet with yuzu (citrus fruit) flavored sweet bean paste rolled in soft sponge cake.
Ichiroku Honpo, in front of Dogo Onsen main building (一六本舗 道後本館前店)
Address: 20-17 Dogoyunomachi, Matsuyama-shi, Ehime （愛媛県松山市道後湯之町20-17）
Phone No.: +81-89-963-5716
Opening Hours: 8:30-22:00
Open all year round
6. Enjoy a Foot Bath before Taking a Train
There is a foot bath by an automaton clock located in front of Dogo Onsen Station. Wrap your time in Dogo Onsen with a relaxing foot bath.
7. Get Home by the Cute Bocchan Train
You can take a streetcar from Dogo Onsen station to Matsuyama station. If you are lucky enough, you can take the Bocchan Train, a replica of a steam locomotive which ran in the city for 67 years from 1888. If you want to make sure to take this train, you should check the timetable at the station on the day you get here because the number of Bocchan Trains operated is limited.
Dogo-kan is a Japanese-style inn designed by a world famous architect, Kisho Kurokawa. Their hospitality has an excellent reputation and was given an award for being the best Japanese-style inn in Dogo Onsen area on a popular travel website.
Address: 7-26 Dogotako-cho, Matsuyama-shi, Ehime (愛媛県松山市道後多幸町7-26)
The buffet style dinner is full of splendid seafood from the Inland Sea including natural red sea bream and gorgeous meat dishes and enjoys a good reputation. Have fun at the Japanese drum performance show which starts at 21:00.
Hotel Tsubaki-kan （ホテル椿舘）
Address: 5-32 Dogosagidanicho, Matsuyama-shi, Ehime（愛媛県松山市道後鷺谷町5-32）
From late March to early April is the best season to visit Dogo Onsen. The cherry blossoms around the area are gorgeous. (Source：Shopcard.me）
Matsuyama Castle is popular among tourists from all over the world. Given the second place in the ranking for Japanese castles by a travel website, it was originally built in 1602 and rebuilt in 1853 after it burnt down. Its castle tower still keeps its shape today and offers a gorgeous view of the sea.
Address: Marunouchi, Matsuyama-shi, Ehime （愛媛県松山市丸之内）
Phone No.: +81-89-921-4873 (Matsuyama-jo Central Office)
Opening Hours: 9:00-16:30 *changes depending on the season
Closed: the third Wednesday of December
By Train: 25 minutes by a streetcar from JR Matsuyama Station
By Airplane: 38 minutes by Limousine bus from Matsuyama Airport
Dogo Onsen （道後温泉）
Address: 6-8 Dogoyunomachi, Matsuyama-shi, Ehime（愛媛県松山市道後湯之町6-8）
Phone No.: +81-89-943-8342 (Dogo Onsen Inn Association)
公式ウェブサイト Official Website
Required time: Half a day
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SHINOBU KOBAYASHI Reporters