How to enjoy Isawa Onsen,the newest hot spring resort in Japan by the owner of wooden ryokan“Kikori”
Updated: Dec 17, 2019
As soon as a hot spring was discovered in the area in 1961, many ryokans and onsen facilities opened up and the area named “Isawa Onsen” in Fuefuki City became a popular onsen spot. It’s been half a century since the hot spring resort was established, and it used to be a glamorous hot spring resort that had entertained lots of visitors from all over the country. Today, however, you will not see as many people walking around the resort. This month, we’re going to introduce “Kikori”, which is a local ryokan that leads community projects in order to revitalize the once bustling, glamorous resort.
Wooden Ryokan*, Kikori
Kikori is a wooden ryokan that was founded by a lumber dealer and it’s located in Isawa, Fuefuki City in Yamanashi Prefecture. It moved to the current location in 1977. In Kikori’s purely Japanese style building, they have Samurai armor, nostalgic everyday items, etc. on display and they’re also popular amongst tourists from overseas.
Mr. Yasuhiro Yamashita, who is the owner of Kikori, is an “Isawa Onsen* lover” and he bathes in onsen twice daily.
*Ryokan … A traditional Japanese inn
*Onsen … Japanese hot springs
The newest hot spring resort in Japan
Isawa Onsen hot spring resort in Fuefuki City, where the first hot spring in the area was discovered in 1961, is the newest hot spring resort in Japan. After they found a hot spring in the area in Showa Period, many ryokans were constructed within two to three years there and the hot spring resort was established. With its location being easily accessible from Tokyo, which is about two-hour drive away, it quickly became a popular hot spring resort that lots of people from all over Japan visited.
The spring water from this area is classified as simple alkaline hot spring. The water is colorless and transparent and we hear that it keeps your skin smooth and healthy as well.
“I love this onsen and bathe in it twice daily, every morning and every evening. Thanks to onsen, my skin feels amazing”, says Mr. Yasuhiro Yamashita, the owner of Kikori with a laugh. He tells us about the high quality of this hot spring from his actual experience.
“Isawa Onsen hot spring resort is the newest hot spring resort in Japan. ‘Kikori’ opened its doors in 1973. Back then we had lots and lots of customers come stay at our ryokan so we moved to the current location in 1977 so that we could accommodate more customers.”
Due to the booming economy of the time as well as the onsen trend working in their favor, Isawa Onsen became a popular hot spring resort. The area was also known as “an entertainment district”, where you can invite geisha* and enjoy their performance.
*Geisha … Professional Japanese female entertainers who perform various kinds of traditional Japanese arts such as music and dance.
“In Isawa Onsen, which moved with the times as a hot spring entertainment district, the traditional entertainment culture remains. Moreover, compared to geisha entertainment offered at high-end ryokans in Tokyo and Kyoto, what we offer here is a lot easier to approach. Also we don’t have the rule of ‘No first-time customers’. You can invite geishas or geisha trainees to your party and enjoy their performance of traditional Japanese arts such as shamisen* and dance.”
*Shamisen … A Japanese three-stringed musical instrument
The city full of tourist attractions
Mr. Yamashita and other members of Isawa Onsen Tourism Association teamed up with Fuefuki City and they’re currently promoting projects to re-energize Isawa Onsen. Out of those projects, one called “Ryokans of Takeda’s 24 Generals*” especially puts a spotlight on 24 hotels and ryokans located in Isawa Onsen.
*Takeda’s 24 Generals … A group of 24 most trusted generals who served Takeda Shingen, one of the most famous military leaders in Japan, who ruled Kai Province (today’s Yamanashi Prefecture) in Sengoku Period.
“The reason why we started this project was because we wanted people to experience the goodness of Fuefuki City and Isawa Onsen more properly. Compared to Kawaguchiko area, there are many reasonably priced accommodations in Isawa Onsen. There are many people who would come to Isawa just for accommodations after spending their day in Katsunuma area that has many wineries or areas around Mt. Fuji. When they stay here in Isawa Onsen for reasonable prices but just go out of the area for other activities, we can’t expect a positive economic effect on our city. Fuefuki City, including Isawa Onsen, has many tourist attractions. It’s not too much to say that the entire area of the city is full of them. Therefore I want people to know more about Isawa Onsen.”
They have peach blossoms in spring, fruit such as grapes and peaches in summer, colorful foliage in autumn and onsen in winter. Fuefuki City is a place where Takeda clan’s history is still alive.
“There aren’t many cities that have things to offer all year round, are there? What we have in Fuefuki City now is sufficient to attract visitors. What’s important is how we promote them, but we’re not being able to spread the information really well at the moment. Especially it’s hard to disseminate history.”
The project “Ryokans of Takeda’s 24 Generals”, which is currently underway, is something they started in order to disseminate the history. At each participating hotel or ryokan, they display things that are related to one of the 24 generals they were allocated to, which encourages people to go around and visit each of those places.
“We thought we wanted to organize something that encourages visitors to travel around the city. If what we have interests you at all, we want you to visit here. The reason why we chose to feature samurai generals is because it’s well received amongst visitors from overseas as well. We actually have lots of visitors who have their photos taken in front of the samurai armor at our ryokan.”
A role of “ryokan” that can be a base for tourists to travel around the area
Mr. Yamashita tells us that accommodations in the area have a role to play while they work on the project to disseminate the charms of Isawa Onsen to people not only in Japan but also overseas.
“I think it’s very important for us private businesses to spread the information of great things about Fuefuki City ourselves. Hotels and ryokans are facilities that welcome visitors from all over the world. I think accommodations can be a starting point to help increase the number of visitors to this area. We can actually attract and bring in customers and accept them. That’s our strength as hotels and ryokans.”
It’s also essential to be very particular about the quality of the services they provide so that customers will take a great impression of Isawa Onsen back home and become fans of this area.
“We think about what we can do to have our customers enjoy themselves and feel happy. We’ve put a lot of effort and worked on many different things in order to achieve that and we will continue to do so. We learn all of that from our customers as well.”
At “Kikori”, which presents itself as “Ryokan of Kosaka Danjo, one of Takeda’s 24 Generals”, they have set up a highly entertaining concept room. In this room, you can enjoy tea or alcohol beverages feeling as if you’re having a council of war with the general and it’s been well received by the visitors.
Not only can you enjoy “Kikori” itself as an onsen ryokan but also you can set a base for your trip there to explore the city. Then you’ll be surely come across something beyond your expectation. We have high hopes for the future of Isawa Onsen hot spring resort, a place with a playful spirit!
＼Let’s stay at Wooden Ryokan Kikori／
Hotel Name： Wooden Ryokan Kikori
Address： 325 Kawanakajima Isawa-cho Fuefuki city
Tel： （+81）- 55‐263‐5311