Soothing the heart of the traveller: warm baths and warm people
  The Japan Association of Secluded Hot Spring Inns was formed at the suggestion of the late Hifumi Iwaki, founder of Asahi Ryoko Kai (forerunner of today's Asahi Sun Tours). Thirty-three inns, all located so far off the beaten path that they even lacked a bus service, came to his call, and the association was formed in April 1975.
  The 1970 Japanese World Fair in Osaka (Expo '70) had sparked a surge in travel throughout Japan. Lodging facilities in hot spring areas and tourist spots began calling themselves "hotels" and were competing to rebuild on a larger and grander scale in reinforced concrete. At the height of Japan's economic boom, the travel industry had begun a period of astonishing growth. Iwaki argued that this was not real travel. The human element would yearn once again for the human touch - and feel a strong desire to seek a spiritual haven of solitude at the small hot springs inns deep in the mountains. Real travellers would return, seeking travel as it was meant to be. Iwaki called for the formation of an organisation to foster joint advertising and promotion by hot spring inns that retained, and shared a philosophy of maintaining the true beauty of Japanese hot springs. Iwaki's proposal was a ray of hope for those hot spring inns with limited capacity in out-of-the-way locations - mountain lodges unable to ride the wave of modernisation and too small for travel agencies to bother with.
  By 1977 membership had risen to 38 inns. That same year, Iwaki published 'Japan's Secluded Hot Springs' (Nihon no Hitou), a travelogue compiling interviews with member inns, serving as the sort of brochure that individual inns were ill-equipped to produce on their own. Although begun as a means of joint advertising and promotion, the booklet has been revised roughly every two years. Now in its 18th edition, it covers 194 inns.
  Public interest in hot springs has grown in recent years. The current hot springs craze has brought a staggering number of magazines devoted to the topic and an overabundance of information. Some people seem to think that only 'gensen kakenagashi' hot springs (where water is pumped directly from the source and not recirculated in the bath) are the real thing. But being 'gensen kakenagshi' is not a requirement for membership in our association. Our membership includes inns with mineral springs below 25°c at their source, as well as inns that recirculate their limited flow. As mentioned above, our organisation began as a gathering of mountain inns who were willing to share in joint advertising and promotion, left behind by the tide of the times, but taking positive steps to conserve and protect the true beauty of hot springs and the natural environment.
  Our association is a group of inns serious about conservation and the maintenance of our natural environment, who appreciate their limited underground resources and are careful to use and maintain them to prevent depletion.
  A time will come when a more human element, left behind during the economic boom years is sought once again - a time when people once again crave a natural landscape that evokes the romantic homeland of the Japanese soul.
  Firm in this belief we have refused to be swept along by superficial trends, focusing instead on that which must not be forgotten, that which must remain unchanged.
  Travellers set out upon their journeys with a variety of feelings and desires in their hearts. How do we welcome them, both as an inn and as individuals? And how do we protect the natural environment for our inns and our springs? The ideal - indeed our mission - shared by members of the Japan Association of Secluded Hot Spring Inns is to soothe the heart of the traveller with the warmth of its people as well as the warmth of its baths, and we hope to remain a gathering of inns that have earned the love and support of our guests.

Member Inns

Japan Association of Secluded Hot Spring Inns

A History of the HITOU - Japan Association of Secluded Hot Spring Inns

1975

  • In April, 33 inns get together and launch the Hitou Association.

1977

  • The first edition of the book "Nihon no Hitou" (Japan's Secret Spa's) is published with 38 member's inns.
HITOU of Japan

1979

  • With 58 members, the second edition of "Nihon no Hitou" is published.
HITOU of Japan

1980

  • Mr. Jinuemon Satou (of Huboukaku, Aone Onsen) succeeds Mr. Ryuzou Okamura (of Choujukan, Houshi Onsen) to become the second chairman of the Hitou Association.

1981

  • The third edition of "Nihon no Hitou" is published, which includes the inns of 68 members of the association.
HITOU of Japan

1982

  • Japan's Hitou experience a surge in popularity and attention by the TV industry.

1983

  • The Hitou association starts a stamp scheme, which offers guests one night's stay free of charge after every 10th night they stay at any member inns.

1984

  • The fourth edition of "Nihon no Hitou" is published, which now contains 80 members inns.
  • Mr Yoshinori Satou succeeds Mr. Jinuemon Satou to become the third chairman of the Hitou Association.
HITOU of Japan

1986

  • The fifth edition of "Nihon no Hitou" is published, featuring a total of 102 inns.
HITOU of Japan

1988

  • With 104 inns, the sixth edition of "Nihon no Hitou" is published.
HITOU of Japan

1991

  • A revision of "Nihon no Hitou" is published as the seventh edition, still with 104 inns.
  • In May, the first chairman of the Hitou Association Mr. Okamura Ryuzou dies at the age of 76.
HITOU of Japan

1993

  • Still containing 104 members, "Nihon no Hitou" is revised and published as the eight edition.
HITOU of Japan

1994

  • The Hitou stamp scheme is used by over 2000 people in a year.

1995

  • The ninth edition of "Hitou no Nihon" is published with 119 inns.
HITOU of Japan

1996

  • "Hitou no Nihon" reaches its tenth edition with 124 member's inns.
HITOU of Japan

1998

  • With a total of 128 inns, the eleventh edition of "Nihon no Hitou" is published.
  • The Hitou stamp scheme is used by over 5000 people in a year.
HITOU of Japan

1999

  • The twelth edition of "Nihon no Hitou" is published, featuring 135 inns.
HITOU of Japan

2000

  • The thirteenth edition of "Nihon no Hitou" is published with 141 inns.
  • The promotional video "Ryokan Dokuhon" and "Hifumi Iwaki's Lecture" are created and distributed.
  • The first meeting to discuss the next generation of the association and its future goals is held at Shinsuikan.
  • The first meeting and social gathering is held in Meigetsu-sou exclusively for female Hitou owners.
HITOU of Japan Ryokan Dokuhon, Hifumi Iwaki's Lecture

2001

  • The book "Keeping Hitou ~ A 25 year history" is published and distributed.
    (Supervised by the HITOU - Japan Association of Secluded Hot Spring Inns 25th Anniversary Editorial Group, Written and edited by Hifumi Iwaki.)
  • The fourteen edition of "Nihon no Hitou" is published, featuring 145 member's inns.
  • The Hitou stamp scheme is used by over 8000 people in a year.
  • Mr. Hifumi Iwaki, a key advocate of the foundation of the society, passes away in November aged 73.
Keeping Hitou ~ A 25 year history HITOU of Japan

2003

  • The fifteenth edition of "Nihon no Hitou" is published with 156 inns.
  • The Hitou stamp scheme is used by over 10,000 people in a year.
  • Mr. Jinuemon Satou (81), the second chairman of the association passes away in January.
HITOU of Japan

2004

  • In April, the association acquired corporation status, and is relaunched as the 'Japan Association for the Preservation of Secluded Hot Springs Limited Liability Intermediary Corporation"
  • In April, the first meeting for former members of the association is held at Choujukan, Houshi Onsen.

2005

  • A commemorative publication to mark the establishment of the former members society titled 'The mountain roads of the Hitou, leading the progress' is published. (Written and edited by: Mr. Takase Toshimi)
The mountain roads of the Hitou, leading the progress

2006

  • The sixteenth edition of "Nihon no Hitou" is published featuring 185 member's inns.
  • The Hitou stamp scheme is used by over 14,000 people in a year.
HITOU of Japan
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