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Release | Shizuko Kosuna

The history of Jozankei Onsen, 150th Anniversary!

Sapporo’s Annex Jozankei Onsen is going to celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2016. The monk Jozan discovered and opened this healing spa. Why did a monk open an onsen? What was in his mind? I will introduce the story of 150 years history of Jozankei Onsen.


Sapporo’s Annex: the valley of hot springs Jozankei

定山渓温泉▲250 million people visit Jozankei annually. (Photo provided by Sapporo City)

50 minutes drive from central Sapporo. Jozankei is the scenic onsen district with about 20 buildings of hotels and ryokans stand and hot steam rise from the Toyohira River in the center of the town. Also, Jozankei is famous for its scenario beauty with mountains and valleys, since the town is located within the area of Shikotsu-Toya National Park. Being a part of Sapporo, a city designated by cabinet order, and a part of National Park is a very rare destination throughout Japan. Jozankei Onsen is an onsen district located in a favorable environment. 

Miizumi Jozan, an indomitable trainee monk opened this town

定山渓源泉公園の定山坊▲The statue of Jozan stands in Jozan Gensen Park.

The history starts when an Ainu person guided Jozan to this place, and Jozan decided to build a place for hot spring treatment using plenty of hot spring here in 1866.
How was a trainee monk Jozan like?
He was born in Okayama in 1805. He entered the Buddhist priesthood when he was young, and trained at Mount Koya. It is said that he went on a journey and worked for people’s health and happiness. 
In 1861, he decided to stay at Hariusu in Otaru. He guided people who are suffering from sickness to hot spring and prayed for them. 
Ezo (the old name for Hokkaido) area in early 1800 was before the administrative unit for Hokkaido was sent. Medicine was not available enough like today. At that time, hot spring was used for medication purposes for people who are injured or got sick. 

定山渓源泉公園▲Jozan Gensen Park was built for the 200th anniversary of the birth of Jozan. The forest reproduces the scenery when Jozan discovered onsen. (Photo provided by Sapporo City)

There is another story about Jozan and onsen. He had a little sister who was proneness to disease  and his mother repeatedly took his sister to onsen next to their house and prayed for her to get better. However, the little sister passed away when she was very small. Jozan was particular about hot spring treatment because of this history in the past. 

Jozan was taught this hot spring in Jozankei and devoted his life to open hot spring spa in this area. This was to save people who are suffering from sickness and injury as a trainee monk.


Devoted his life to open the hot spring to save people’s lives

定山渓ホテルの定山像▲The statue of Jozan at Jozankei Hotel. Jozan built an onsen hut around here.

Jozan decided to stick here until the end of his life, but Jozankei was an undeveloped land at deep in the mountains. People had to walk over numerous mountains to reach the hot spring. First, Jozan opened a mountain path from Otaru and built a probationary hut so that everyone could get into the onsen. 

The time changed from the chaotic Bakumatsu to Meiji and the administrative unit for Hokkaido was sent to Hokkaido. Jozan appealed the development of hot spring to the second generation judge Iwamura. Jozan’s will has understood and the permanent hot spring bath was built around 1871. At the same time, Higashi Honganji Road (National Road number 230 today) to connect Sapporo and Jozankei finished constructing. Jozankei Onsen started to be known to people gradually from this time. It was 5 years after Jozan first discovered the hot spring. 

Jozan opened hot spring by his own efforts. The secretary who made an inspection of Higashi Honganji Road was moved by Jozan’s passion. So he took the name of Jozan and named the place “Jozankei”, meaning “the valley of Jozan”.
Jozan was paid as “the guard of hot spring” from the administrative unit of Hokkaido temporarily, but his life was very poor. After he decided to live in Jozankei, he was living a self-sustaining life. After 1874 when the job of “the guard of hot spring” was abolished, he spent rest of his life doing religious mendicancy in Sapporo.

Jozan devoted his life to open the hot spring without caring about his own life. He was the man who devoted everything to the god and prayed for people’s happiness.

明治40年定山渓温泉▲The picture of hot spring treatment bath around 1907. Jozan was already passed away and it was doing business as “Sato Onsen”. (Photograph by Jozankei Hot Springs Tourism Association)

定山寺▲Jozanji temple which holds lots of Jozan’s articles left behind. (Visiting inside is not allowed) The outside stands “Kaiso Miisen Jozan Memorial Monument”. 

Jozankei Onsen after

The hot spring ryokan and hotels were built gradually and after Jozankei was selected as “The Three Great View of Hokkaido” in 1923 together with “Rishiri Fuji” and “Lake Toya”, it started to be widely known. Jotetsu train line was opened in the beginning of Showa, and it became popular as Sapporo’s Annex. 

昭和15年定山渓温泉▲The hot spring town in 1940, around Tsukimi Bridge. (Photograph by Jozankei Hot Springs Tourism Association)

Jozankei Onsen opened 150 years ago by Jozan. The will of Jozan for people’s health is passed to people in this town. 

In the 150th anniversary year 2016, there will be numerous events going on for day-trip and staying visitors. Such as 150 yen day spa ticket and light up of the town “Jozankei Nature Luminarie”. Why don’t you visit Jozankei to rest your body and mind? The direct bus “Kappa Liner” takes to Jozankei from Sapporo just in an hour. About event and access information, please check out the official website of Jozankei Hot Springs Tourism Association
  • The history of Jozankei Onsen, 150th Anniversary!