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.
Japan Association of Secluded Hot Spring Inns