Dōgo Onsen is one of the oldest onsen hot springs in Japan, with a history stretching back over 1,000 years. The springs are mentioned in the Man'yōshū (written c. 759), and according to legend Prince Shōtoku (574–622) used to partake of the waters.
Dōgo Onsen was the favorite retreat of writer Natsume Sōseki (1867–1916) when he was working near Matsuyama as a teacher in what was at the time rural Shikoku. In Soseki's loosely autobiographical novel Botchan, the eponymous main character is a frequent visitor to the springs, the only place he likes in the area.
The present building of the Dōgo Onsen public bath was organized by Dogo Yunomachi mayor Isaniwa Yukiya and built in 1894. Built on three levels for maximum capacity, the baths remain popular and are usually crowded at peak times, such as in the early evening before dinner.
While Dōgo is largely engulfed in the suburban sprawl of modern-day Matsuyama, the area around Dōgo retains the feeling of a resort town, with guests from all over the country wandering the streets in yukata robes after their bath. Dōgo is easily accessible from central Matsuyama by tram, and has regular bus services to and from both the air and ferry ports.
Yushinden is a bath room specially reserved for the Imperial Family. Yushinden is on the east side of the main building. The name is taken from a Chinese classic.[clarification needed] Yushinden was built in 1899 in the traditional architecture of Momoyama period. The Gyokuza no Ma is a bath room for the exclusive use of the Emperor.
Legends of Dōgo Onsen
In Dogo, two legends were handed down.
Legend of egret
Long ago, many egrets lived in Dogo. One day, an egret who injured his shin found a hot spring there. He soaked his shin every day in the hot water. Eventually the egret became well and flew away. People who watched this situation also soaked in the hot spring and their health improved. The news spread that the hot spring was beneficial for ones health, and the hot spring became popular.
Legend of Tama no ishi
A long time ago, there were two small gods, Okuninushi no Mikoto and Sukunahikona no Mikoto. They came from Izumo to Dogo. Sukunahikona no Mikoto contracted a bad illness and his days were numbered. Okuninushi no Mikoto made Sukunahikona no Mikoto soak in the hot spring. Sukunahikona no Mikoto regained his health, and danced on a stone in the hot spring as proof of his vigor. At that time, his footprint was left, and there is now a stone called Tama no ishi that is exhibited at Dogo Onsen.
In popular culture
The main building in the movie Spirited Away was modeled on the present building of the Dōgo Onsen public bathhouse.
- Akimasa Watanabe Matsuyamajo to Dogo Onsen [Matsuyama Castle and Dogo Onsen] (Matsuyama: Ehimebunkasousho, 1983) page 200-201
- Akimasa Watanabe. Matsuyamajo to Dogo Onsen [Matsuyama Castle and Dogo Onsen] (Matsuyama: Ehimebunkasousho, 1983) page 200
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- Dogo Onsen travel guide from Wikivoyage