The True Face of an Idyllic Riverside Hot Spring Town
At the foot of the Mt. Omine range lies Tenkawa village, famous for its clear waters, and the Dorogawa-onsen hot spring. Situated at a high altitude of 800m, the idyllic Dorogawa-onsen street runs along the riverside with retro ryokan inns and traditional lamps that light up the evening with their gentle glow.
At Dorogawa-onsen you can enjoy the quintessential Japanese hot spring experience – relaxing in famous hot spring waters surrounded by the beauty of nature, but Dorogawa-onsen also has a unique aspect that cannot be found in regular hot spring towns.
Dorogawa-onsen originated as a lodging town for pilgrims visiting the holy mountain Omine. Legend tells us that the town was established by the descendants of the oni (ogre) Goki, who was a servant of En no Gyoja, the originator of the Shugendo (*1) religion of mountain asceticism.
While oni often have an image of evil, in the southern region of Nara, including Dorogawa-onsen, oni have a fortuitous image as messengers of the gods. In the setsubun festival it is the national tradition to throw beans to cast out oni, but Dorogawa-onsen has a different custom of welcoming oni as harbingers of fortune.
(* 1) Refer to this article for more information on Shugendo
Friendly and Warm – Visiting a Smiling Oni
A pilgrim lodging town run by the descendants of oni…? While that might create an terrible image for some, it is swept away the moment you arrive at your lodge greeted by an at-home atmosphere of smiling faces.
Today we would like to introduce the Ryokan Kuboji inn. While the Kubo family is originally a manufacturer and merchant of traditional herbal Daranisuke medicines for the stomach, the family has taken root in the Dorogawa region, and Mr. Tatsuji Kubo (right in below picture) is the third-generation owner of the Ryokan Kuboji.
Countless groups of Shugendo pilgrims visit Dorogawa-onsen every year when Mt. Omine is open from May to September. It is the custom to spend a night in Dorogawa-onsen, and then hike from the lodge to the summit of Mt. Omine with a guide.
Mr. Tatsuji Kubo tells us, “I also worked as a guide to Mt. Omine Temple for many years.” In his hands, he holds an oni mask given to him by a long-time, friendly patron. Mr. Kubo also tells us that most pilgrims make a reservation for the following year once they complete their visit to Mt. Omine.
Every group is just like family to the inn, and the relationship is built over generations by exchanging regional specialties or visiting each other to share greetings.
Dorogawa-onsen boasts a long history of as a base which welcomes and sees off pilgrims visiting Mt. Omine. That same warm, open hospitality passed down through the generations greets regular travelers as well as pilgrims.
Exquisite Food and Unsurpassed Comfort – Ryokan Kuboji
The famous Dorogawa cuisine Mt. Omine wild-boar hotpot cannot be missed for dinner. The wild boar meat, raised within the vastness of nature, provided by the famed local hunter Jibie-do Nara has an exquisite flavor that can be found nowhere else.
Take one small sip of the legendary miso broth made by the proprietress of the inn, and there is surprisingly little gaminess, and the mildly sweet flavor of boar fat fills your mouth…!
Deeply experience the knowledge of mountain living packed in the rich, nourishing flavor of the colorful surrounding dishes.
The interior of the ryokan overflows with the warmth of wood and a cool, refreshing atmosphere. The seasonal flowers that unobtrusively add color to the lobby decorated with memorials from past pilgrim groups is another point of continual charm.
From winter to spring, heated kotatsu tables can also be found in the spacious rooms of the inn, allowing you to appreciate the cold seasons of Dorogawa even more deeply.
While kotatsu tables are a familiar part of Japanese homes, it is rare to find them in a ryokan, which helps create an extra-special feeling of home at Ryokan Kuboji.
The entire staff of the ryokan works together to provide meticulous care to the guests in each of their 7 rooms, and devote themselves to providing an unforgettable, comfortable experience.