News & Features
The World's Oldest Hotel
It's said that less than one in five businesses started today will be around in five years' time—which puts this story into perspective. Hōshi Ryokan is a hotel and spa in Komatsu, Japan. It has been owned and run by the same family for 46 generations so far, and its famous hot springs have been refreshing and revitalizing its patrons for no less than 1291 years. Founded by a Buddhist disciple whose master had the springs' location delivered to him in a dream, Hōshi is the world's oldest hotel and also the world's oldest continuously-operating business.
The world was a very different place back in 718 AD when Hōshi first opened its doors; the fall of Rome still dominated the culture of the time, the Muslim invasion of Europe and India was at its peak and people were alive who had met the prophet Muhammed in person. The Chinese had just invented gunpowder, the Maya were about to crumble in South America, and the Byzantines and Bulgars were fighting over Rome's territories in the East.
Great Britain was under the control of the Franks, but the Vikings were about to shatter the relative peace there. Europe would have to wait hundreds of years before it experienced its Dark Ages.
The story goes that a great Buddhist teacher, Taicho Daishi, had hiked up to the top of the sacred Mt. Hakusan, near the village of Awazu. While he was asleep after a hard training session, the deity of the mountain appeared to him in a dream and told him:
"Lying 20-24 kilometers from the base of the mountain is a village called Awazu. There, you'll find an underground hot spring with wondrous restorative powers that Yakushi Nyorai (the Physician of Souls) has bestowed upon it. The people of the village, however, do not known of this good fortune. Descend the mountain and head to Awazu. With the people of the village unearth the hot spring-it will serve them forever."
Daishi went down to the village, uncovered the hot spring, and had some sick locals immersed in the water. They were cured immediately and their health restored.
Daishi had other things to do, being in search of enlightenment and such, so he bestowed the task of building a spa business at the site upon his disciple Garyo Hōshi, who really took the idea and ran with it. Hōshi's family have diligently run a modest business at the side for nearly 1300 years. Hōshi has survived the rise and fall of the Samurai, the Ninja, many Japanese emperors and two world wars. 1300 years, and all they get is this lousy Guinness World Record?
The hotel now has around 100 guest rooms. There are two indoor hot spring spas, and another two outdoor that are separated for men and women only. Guests are provided with a special Yukata kimono for relaxation during their stay, there's several traditional gardens and beautiful scenery all around.
Room prices hover around US$580 per night for a double room, and include breakfast and dinner.
For more information, head over to the Hōshi website, and if you'd like to see a list of some more of the world's oldest companies, there's a page dedicated to just that on Wikipedia.