800 year history

The 12nd century (Heian〜Kamakura period)

Fujikura (saddles made of wisteria wood ) originated in Yunishigawa-onsen and are exhibited in the treasure space of Bankyu’s lobby. Yunishigawa hot spring was where soldiers of the Heike (Taira) clan fled after being defeated by the Genji (Minamoto) clan in the Battle of Dan-no-Ura in the great Gempei War of 1185 that had split the country in two. Here, they lived in quiet exile, making the area their new home, an uninhabited region where traditional carp streamers were never hoisted nor livestock raised to prevent discovery by their Genji pursuers.

The practices borne from this exile gradually were passed on, evolving into deeply-rooted local customs that survived for 800 years and can be felt to this day. It is said that Yunishigawa emerged as a hot springs region as the defeated soldiers endeavored to heal their physical and spiritual wounds.

Today, thousands of people make the same journey from far away to bathe in the region’s curative waters. The oldest hot spring in the area dates back over 820 years and is believed to have been discovered by Tadazane Taira (descendent of Taira no Kiyomori, the clan leader). It is the site of Honke Bankyu’s current open-air bath for men, “Fujikura no Yu” and is known as the original hot spring of Yunishigawa. (The wooden “Fuji” horse stirrups are on display in the main building.)         


The16th-century The Memorial stone tower at the Bankyu tomb was designated by Tadamitsu Ban.( He was the one who rediscovered the hot spring of Yunishigawa Onsen.)And it is an important cultural property of Nikko.

The 17th century (AD1666〜 First of Edo period)

Many residents of this area bear the family name “Ban” (伴), which was adopted as a secret insignia of Heike (Taira clan) members who fled to the region looking to hide their identity, and means: “Person of Taira”. The current 25th generation owner of Honke Bankyu is a descendent of Tadazane Taira, the 6th son of Shigemori Taira. As a hot springs lodge, Honke Bankyu dates back 350-years to 1666 when it was founded and is the 7th oldest company in Tochigi Prefecture.

The 19th century (Meiji period)

A hot spring springing up from Yunishigawa river healed many travelers. This picture was taken in front of Honke Bankyu..

The 20th century (Shouwa period)

This picture is a rare 3-story wooden inn at that time.

The 21st century

The 24th generational matron (called “okami”) of Honke Bankyu has served as chairperson of the National Heike Association for some 20 years, and was responsible for erecting the vine “Kazura Bridge” connecting the Main Building to the dinner restaurant. The bridge is inspired by the vine-tressed bridges hastily put up by Heike soldiers and then subsequently cut down before their pursuers could cross.

In 1994, the inaugural “first crossing” was held by descendents from both sides of the Genpei War crossing the bridge together as part of a reconciliation and peace signing ceremony at the Yunishigawa Hot Spring’s historical village, “Heike no Sato”. The restaurant is where visitors sit around a charcoal fire in the company of friends and loved ones and enjoy local “irori” cuisine while contemplating a bygone era in Japanese history.       

The 21st century (Heisei period)

The 800 year history of the Honke Bankyu is displayed in the treasure hall of the main building lobby.

The 21st century (Heisei period)

Yunishigawa-Onsen is prosperous as a sightseeing spot, and We are inherits the 25th generation in this hotel 'history now.  Come release your fatigue and rejuvenate mind and spirit in Miyama Gorge, lush mountain ravines far removed from the clamor of city life, just as did the Heike clansmen when they arrived seeking solace and a reprieve from their Genji pursuers, and embarked upon a new and peaceful life.