Ancient times: Legend of the Egret
“Legend has it that an egret with an injured leg often came here to soak its leg in the hot spring waters that had been gushing from the rocks since ancient times. Eventually its injury healed, and that is how this place came to be called ‘Sagidani’ (egret valley).”
Yoyogungo Rigen-shū, a compilation of local lore completed in 1710, includes the story of an egret with an injured leg that discovered a hot spring gushing from the rocks. The egret returned to the hot spring every day to soak its injured leg. After a while the leg completely healed, and the egret flew away as strong as ever. The people who saw this thought it very strange, and when they too began bathing in the water, they found that it relieved fatigue and speeded recovery from illness. From that time on, bathing in the hot spring became a widely popular practice.
The legend tells how Dogo Onsen was discovered by the egret and how people adopted the custom of bathing in the onsen after seeing the egret’s miraculous recovery. In later years, to commemorate that legend, a stone was placed here called “Sagi Ishi” (egret stone), which is now preserved at Hojo-en square in front of Dogo Onsen Station.