Front page > Dogo Onsen’s History, Quality, and Charm
“Legend has it that an egret with an injured leg often came here to soak its legs in the hot spring waters gushing from the rocks since ancient times. Eventually its injury healed, and that is how this place came to be called ‘Sagidani’ (egret valley).”
The 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, and 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 the “Sagi Ishi” (egret stone), which is now preserved at Hojoen square in front of Dogo Onsen Station.
In the surviving manuscripts of Iyo no Kuni Fudoki is recorded the legend that when the two divinities okuninushi-no-Mikoto and Sukunahikona-no-Mikoto visited Iyo, Sukunahikona-no-Mikoto became very ill. When okuninushi-no-Mikoto carried the small divinity on the palm of his hand and soaked him in the water of Dogo Onsen, Sukunahikona-no-Mikoto immediately recovered, and to prove that he was healthy again he danced upon a stone. That stone came to be called the Tamanoishi, and today it is enshrined at the north side of the Dogo Onsen Honkan.
It is said that when Prince Shotoku visited Dogo Onsen together with the monk Hyeja and Katsuragi no Omi in 596, he was so impressed by the beautiful scenery and the quality of the hot spring that he had a monument erected at Yu-no-Oka to commemorate his visit. During his visit the camellia were in full bloom, and Prince Shotoku compared the scene of the healing hot spring benefiting all people equally as being like a Buddhist paradise.
“At Nikitatsu we waited for the moon before boarding our boat. Now the tide is in at last. Come, let’s get to rowing.”
It is said that Nukata no okimi read this poem when the ship carrying Empress Saimei set sail from Nikitatsu port. In addition to Empress Saimei, there are also records of visits to Dogo Onsen by many other members of the imperial family, including Emperor Jomei and Prince Naka no oe.
Among the popular songs of the Heian Period known as zogei zaibara, the folksongs sung in the area around Dogo Onsen include references to “the bathtubs of Iyo.” There is also reference to “all the bathtubs in Iyo” in the famous Tale of Genji, and in the capital, Kyoto, the expression “the bathtubs of Iyo” came to be used to mean a large number of something.
It is said that in 1288 Ippen Shonin, the Buddhist monk who founded the Jishū sect at Hogon-ji Temple in Dogo, wrote “Namu Amida Butsu,” the name of Amida Buddha in 6 characters, on the cap of a yugama waterspout at the request of Kono Michiari. That yugama still exists today and is enshrined in Dogo Park as the Yugama Yakushi.
Matsudaira Sadayuki became lord of the Matsuyama domain in 1635, and the following year he began expanding the facilities at Dogo Onsen. It is recorded that separate baths were established for samurai and priests, for women, and for male commoners, and that there were a 15-sen* bath, a 10-sen bath, a curing bath, and also a bath for horses downstream.
*1 yen was equal to 100 sen
After Isaniwa Yukiya became the first mayor of Dogo Yunomachi in 1890, he began renovating the Dogo Onsen Honkan, which had fallen into disrepair. There was considerable opposition to his plan, and a group opposing the renovation even barricaded themselves inside Hogon-ji Temple in protest. Isaniwa argued that, “Only if we build something that will continue to be unrivaled even 100 years from now will it be of any value,” and through his unwavering commitment to make Dogo prosperous, the major undertaking of renovating the Dogo Onsen Honkan was completed in 1894.
Alkaline hot spring water is very gentle on the skin, making it ideal for spa and beauty treatment.
Dogo Onsen is one of Japan’s few onsen with hot spring water direct from the source with no reheating or added water.
The Shinrokaku cupola atop the roof of the 3-tiered Dogo Onsen Honkan is fitted with giyaman glass windows. The Tokidaiko drum suspended from the ceiling is sounded on 3 occasions each day to mark the time of day. The drum is struck 6 times at 6:00 a.m., 12 times at noon, and 6 times at 6:00 p.m. Adding to the special onsen atmosphere, the sound of the Tokidaiko has been designated one of the 100 Soundscapes of Japan.
Located on Kanmuriyama, the small mountain south of the Dogo Onsen Honkan, the Sora-no-Sanpomichi (sky promenade & footath) offers panoramic views of the Dogo Onsen Honkan and Dogo Yunomachi, both during the day and at night.