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INTERVIEW


The original property opened in Karuizawa, central Japan, in 1914


YOSHIHARU HOSHINO


The Hoshino Resort Company opened its fi rst onsen inn a century ago, but in the past two decades the business has grown and changed beyond measure. Fourth-generation president Yoshiharu Hoshino explains why the Japanese onsen industry must move with the times


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Under Hoshino’s guidance the family business has grown from one to 32 resorts


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n Japan, bathing in hot springs is a centuries-old passion. The practice of peeling off clothes, washing the body and then immersing it in bubbling hot spring water is every bit as popular today as it was in the


12th century, when records show that the fi rst onsen (hot spring) resorts were established. The nation’s obsession with onsen as an aid to health and relaxation is largely due to geology. Japan has over 100 active volcanoes and a long history of earthquakes, the upside of which is 3,100 hot springs scattered across the country. Over the years, resort towns with both


public baths and onsen-ryokan (small inns with hot springs) have developed in these locations, making the onsen a staple of Japanese domestic tourism, not to mention increasingly popular with overseas visitors. To the Japanese going to the onsen is an experience that embodies the very best of what their country has to offer. “Onsen resorts are extremely precious cultural assets,” says Yoshiharu Hoshino, president of Hoshino Resorts Inc, a 100-year-old onsen resort operator that now has 32 luxury properties across Japan. “They feature excellent food, relaxing hot springs baths and top-notch customer service.” Yet despite the enduring popularity of hot spring bathing, onsen resorts themselves


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