The Japanese love natural hot spring baths, and they have done for centuries. In bustling Matsuyama City, you’ll find the very oldest onsen hot spring resort in all of the country, Dogo Onsen — 3000 years old to be precise.
The old traditional building contains character in every nook, and before you’ve stepped foot in a bath you’ll already be bathed in a feeling of rich history. The current buildings date back to the Meiji era, having been constructed in 1893, and there’s a real feeling of opulence to the traditional design. This was the reason that Dogo Onsen served as the inspiration for the hot spring spa in Studio Ghibli animated film Spirited Away.
The resort is made up of two main baths, and tatami rooms which you can relax in after bathing for an extra fee. In the resort itself you can enjoy matcha tea and traditional sweets, but head to the surrounding area and you’ll find plenty of traditional restaurants serving local delicacies like sea bream taimeshi.
Even if you only have a day or two in Matsuyama, this fantastic ancient hot spring is an absolute must-visit. Those with tattoos will be glad to know they’re not excluded from doing so; the onsen is completely tattoo-friendly.