The Sekizenkan Ryokan is known as the oldest hot spring hotel in Japan. It is located in Shima Onsen in Gunma Prefecture and has been in business for over 300 years since its establishment in 1691.
The delicate workmanship to create the architecture and the fixtures in the rooms made the ryokan a favorite amongst politicians and writers. It has served as a model for Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away”, and a filming location for “Station to Heaven” along with various television dramas, commercials, and interviews.
The property has 52 guest rooms distributed amongst three buildings, from the oldest main building, the Sanso building, and the Kashotei building.
Each room features tatami mat flooring, shoji screens, as well as a sitting area with low furniture with wide windows that shows off the surrounding nature.
Guests are served a Japanese breakfast and delicately prepared kaiseki dinners in the comfort of their rooms–the dishes feature seasonal local ingredients that are carefully selected by the chefs. One night’s stay can range from 15,000 to 80,000 JPY.
There are three bath types available for guests to choose from. In the main building, Ganroku no Yu features a Taisho era room with various baths in a spacious interior with high ceilings and arched windows. Kashotei building has Mori no Yu baths–an outdoor bath surrounded by trees, and a large indoor bath. In the Sanso building, there is Sanso no Yu is an indoor private bath that can be reserved for groups, or families.
Sekizenkan is accessible by taking the New Limited Express Kusatsu from Ueno Station in Tokyo to Nakanojo Station then a bus or taxi to Shima Onsen to the last bus stop.
The establishment is operating normally with safety measures in place and limited acceptance to prevent the spread of infection.
Is this place ryokan only or ryokan with an onsen?
Does this ryokan have private onsen (hot spring)?
Is there a communal shared public bath?
Price range (yen)
15,000 – 80,000
Sima Onsen Sekizenkan
Total rating: 4
For our first onsen stay we chose Sekizenkan (intrigued because it is the oldest in Japan and also a source of inspiration for Spirited Away). Earlier in our trip we had stayed in Kioto and in Tokyo so a stop in Gunma mountains was a great getaway from the city. Worth the 3 hours of transport from Tokyo. We stayed in the main building, japanese style room (futons that one rolls out themselves), shared bathroom and toilets. We enjoyed all the amazing baths and delicious meals... Meals were served in a common dining room. Traditional, historical atmosphere, calm. Friendly and helpful English speaking staff. Everything is very clean.
I would like to go back and stay longer!
Hot spring visit
We walked from the main entrance and they told us and as we are not guests from the hotel we need to walk from the top all the way around (a good 15 min on foot). I don’t mind walking as the weather was good but if was raining I would be highly disappointed.
Any how we learned that the 5th floor open bath was only for hotel guests, we could use just the 1st floor bath and the mixed bath. The Roman style bath was OK but the mixed one was simply put nasty. Considering that we paid 1500 yen for it each i thought it first and last time for me. It is a shame that such a landmark is so poorly looked after and dirty.
Great Meals and Onsen
This was my 3rd visit to the Onsen. I enjoyed the meals truly, always full of surprises. I like the hot spring itself especially the outdoor Onsen. The staffs were friendly and made me feel welcomed. One shortfall was the booking service. I have emailed the Onsen while was still in my home country and it took a long time for them to reply despite requests for update. I recalled the same situation in my 2nd visit, making it difficult to purchase air ticket to Japan and plan the itinerary.
Enjoy the Room, Onsen, and the Dinner
My second visit... still my favourite... clean and comfortable room... enjoyed my sleep on the futon... dinner was served in the room... great breakfast and dinner... the onsen were never crowded... the staffs though have difficulty communicating in English, they tried their best to understand the guests’ needs... they used a translation app on their smartphone to help in communication. I will return.
I was given a wrong room based on wrong description in their listing (no toilet, bathroom, balcony, and in a different older building than described). They agreed to this error and let me change hotels, agreeing to cancellation/refund. After my Japan trip, they went back on their word and charged me anyway for my non-existent stay, despite that all this was because of their own error in room description. One of the staff I dealt with was Takumi Okada. Be careful dealing with them and make sure you make them sign upon every word in detail (yea, seriously), or you may get scammed. Regret that this has to happen for such an otherwise famous onsen.