Dogo Onsen, one of the three oldest hot springs in Japan, locates in Ehime prefecture in the southeastern Shikoku region. In the prefecture’s capital city of Matsuyama is Dogo Onsen Honkan, a hot springs house with an exterior representative of modern Japanese architecture. Dogo Onsen Honkan has established itself as the symbol of Matsuyama and continues to contribute to the town’s cherished onsen culture and tradition.
Dogo Onsen, the hot spring itself, has a history of over 3000 years and is well-known in Japan as one of the three oldest hot springs (the other two being Arima Onsen 有馬温泉in Hyogo prefecture and Shirahama Onsen 白浜温泉in Wakayama prefecture). Several legends explain the beginnings of Dogo Onsen.
Legend of the White Egret
White egret designs throughout the premise
One legend is titled the “Shirasagi Densetsu”, or the “Legend of the White Egret”. A white egret injured its shin, and healed it by continuously dipping it in the Dogo hot spring. Amazed bystanders tried out the hot spring themselves, and to their wonder, they were also cured of diseases and sicknesses. The miracle stories of Dogo Onsen spread, and the hot spring became a popular spot for healing. In honor of this legend, a stone named the Egret Stone (鷺石) was made near the hot spring. The stone can be found at Hojoen Garden in front of Dogo Onsen Station.
Legend of the Rock
The rock from the legend
Another famous legend is the “Tama no Ishi no Itsuwa”, or the “Legend of the Rock”. Two Japanese deities, Ookuninonushi and Sukunabikona, visited the current Ehime prefecture. Sukunabikona was suffering from a serious illness, and Ookuninonushi had Sukunabikona heal in the hot springs. Sukunabikona healed instantly, and danced on a nearby rock as a sign of health. The rock, named Tama no Ishi, remains to this day, and is cherished as a good luck charm.
Beginnings of Dogo Onsen Honkan
Dogo Onsen Honkan, the hot springs house, came into development in the late 1800s. The town mayor, Isaniwa Yukiya, reconstructed the then deteriorating Honkan building. He had a plan to reconstruct Honkan into a sturdy building that would last for the coming century, but many were in opposition due to the magnificent construction fee. Despite the fierce opposition, including even death threats, Isaniwa carried out the plan and the new Honkan was completed in 1894.
The city of Matsuyama and Natsume Soseki
The city of Matsuyama is also well known as a city greatly associated with the iconic Japanese author Natsume Soseki. Natsume resided in Matsuyama to teach English, and was enthralled by the beauty of Honkan. Honkan even made several appearances in one of his most famous novels, “Botchan”. In honor of Natsume and “Botchan”, there is the “Botchan Room” on the third floor of Honkan.
Dogo Onsen Today
Honkan celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1994, and was even designated as an Important Cultural Property. Although construction is scheduled from 2019 onward for an even better bathing experience, you can still enter the facility and enjoy the baths.
Sights to See
Kami no Yu - 神の湯
Kami no Yu bath
The most famous and representative of the baths at Honkan is Kami no Yu. The two men’s baths and one women’s bath are both constructed with stone, creating an atmosphere unique to Dogo Onsen. The hot springs flow from the yugama (湯釜), a pillar-shaped spout. In the women’s bath are statues of Ookuninonushi and Sukunabikona, two of the deities features in the creation legend of Dogo Onsen. There are two courses of Kami no Yu, with each one having different pricing and facilities.
Botchan’s Room - 坊っちゃんの間
One of Japan’s most iconic authors, Natsume Soseki, had Matsuyama in a special place in his heart. After being captivated by the stunning exterior of Honkan, Natsume frequented the hot springs with his friend, distinguished poet Masaoka Shiki. The room they regularly used is now renamed “Botchan’s Room”, and is open for tourists to come see. Located in the third floor of Honkan, all visitors are free to visit the room.
Yushinden completed in 1899, and is the only bathhouse in Japan dedicated for imperial use. Momoyama period architecture inspires the build, and was carefully constructed by craftsmen of the Meiji period. You can see the bathhouse for ¥260 (¥130 for children). For Tama no Yu users, the cost for viewing Yushinden is included in the overall price.
At the very top of the building is Shinrokaku, a huge Japanese taiko drum. Three times a day at 6AM, 12PM and 6PM, the drum is played. Keep your ears peeled for the bold strikes of the taiko!
For the women's bath, there are two Kami no Yu courses to choose from: Kami no Yu Second Floor Course and Kami no Yu Basement Level Course. Fees and hours vary depending on the course.
Kami no Yu second floor
The first of the two is the Kami no Yu Second Floor course. This course provides a spacious lounging hall, where you can enjoy tea and snacks after your bathing experience. For a more leisurely, relaxed time, the Kami no Yu Second Floor course is recommended.
The second is the Kami no Yu Downstairs course. This course is just the hot spring, and is recommended for those without much time for full relaxation.
Kami no Yu Second Floor course (1 hour):
・Adults (Ages 12 and up): ¥840
・Children (Ages 2 to 12): ¥420
Kami no Yu Downstairs course (1 hour):
・Adults (Ages 12 and up): ¥410
・Children (Ages 2 to 12): ¥160
Kami no Yu Second Floor course:
・6:00a.m. to 10:00p.m. (last entry at 9:00p.m.)
Kami no Yu Downstairs course:
・6:00a.m. to 11:00p.m. (last entry at 10:30p.m.)
Tama no Yu - 霊の湯
Tama no Yu Men's bath
Though the Tama no Yu bathhouses are smaller than the Kami no Yu ones, they provide a more luxurious atmosphere. The bath walls are made of granite and marble stones for an extra sense of elegance. Tama no Yu also provides two courses. Both courses allow a tour of Yushinden (又新殿) and the usage of Kami no Yu.
Tama no Yu third floor
The Tama no Yu Third Floor Private Room course is equipped with the lounging room seen in “Botchan”. Additionally, this course offers towel rentals, Botchan dango (団子; Japanese snack) and tea.
Tama no Yu second floor
The second course, the Tama no Yu Second Floor course, has a room furnished with a white egret shaped lamp. This course provides a service of Japanese tea and rice crackers.
Tama no Yu Third Floor Private Room course (1 hour 20 minutes):
・Adults (Ages 12 and older): ¥1550
・Children (Ages 2 to 12): ¥770
Tama no Yu Second Floor course (1 hour):
・Adults (Ages 12 and older): ¥1250
・Children (Ages 2 to 12): ¥620
Tama no Yu Third Floor Private Room course:
・6:00a.m. to 10:00p.m. (last entry at 8:40p.m.)
Tama no Yu Second Floor course:
・6:00a.m. to 10:00p.m. (last entry 9:00p.m.)
Enjoy a time of supreme bliss at one of Japan's representative Onsens
Onsen after a night walk
How does relaxing in an area that is surrounded with Japan's top class history and tradition? Along with the onsen, there are foot baths and other tourist spots near by.
Make a refreshing trip by combining a nice, hot bath, Japan's beautiful tradition, and a breathtaking night view!
Nearest Station: Dogo Onsen Station 道後温泉駅 (Iyo Railway Tram Jonan Line)
From Matsuyama Station 松山駅
【Matsuyama Sta.】Iyo Railway Tram 5 / for Dogo Onsen
→【Dogo Onsen Sta.】→ about a 4-minute walk
From Matsuyama Airport
【Matsuyama Airport】Iyo Railway Bus or Airport Limousine Bus / for Dogo Onsen
→【Dogo Onsen Sta.】→ about a 4-minute walk
5-6 Dogo-yunomachi, Matsuyama, Ehime
6:00a.m. - 10:00p.m. or 11:00p.m. (depending on hot spring)
Kami-no-yu and the public lounging room on the first floor: ・Adults: ¥840 ・Children (2 to 11 years old): ¥420 Kami-no-yu on the ground floor: ・Adults: ¥410 ・Children (2 to 11 years old): ¥160 Tama-no-yu and the private lounging room on the second floor: ・Adults: ¥1,550 ・Children (2 to 11years old): ¥770 Tama-no-yu and the public lounging room on the first floor: ・Adults: ¥1,250 ・Children (2 to 11 years old): ¥620 Tour of the Yushinden: ・Adults: ¥260 ・Children (6 to 11 years old): ¥130