History of Arima

Discovery

Tosen Jinja (Shrine)
Tosen Jinja (Shrine)

The history of Tousen Jinja (Shrine) which is familiarly known as the protecting god of Arima Hot Springs says that Onamuchi-no-mikoto and Sukunahikona-nomikoto discovered Arima Hot Springs. When the two gods visited Arima, three injured crows drank water from a pool. A few days later, they found the pool curing their injuries, which proved the pool was a Spa.
Only these three crows who found the place of the Spa were permitted to live in Arima and are called “Three crows of Arima”
An Imperial visit of the 34th Emperor Jomei (593 – 641) and the 36th Emperor Koutoku (596 - 654) made the name of Arima popular.  Jomeiki of Nihonshoki, Chronicles of Japan, says The Emperor Jomei stayed at Arima-Ontouguu (shrine) in Settsu to enjoy bathing for 86 days from September 9th till December 13th since 631.

Shakunihonki, a commentary of Chronicles of Japan, says the Emperor Koutoku liked Arima Hot Springs and he stayed there for 82 days with his ministers, Abe-no-Kurahashimaro and Soga-no-Ishikawamaro and his guardians for 82 days from October 11th till his Imperial vist on New Year’s Eve in 647.

The monk Gyoki enshrined

??Arima Hot Springs History tells the story that Arima Hot Springs declined gradually after the famous period of the Imperial visit of the Emperor Jomei and Koutoku. The monk Gyoki founded and rebuilt the Arima Hot Springs.
Gyoki whom the Emperor Shomu (701 – 756) trusted deeply was a high monk who dedicated himself to building ponds and bridges, digging ditches and enshrined temples.

When Gyoki dug a big pond in Koya Itami, northern part of Osaka plain, he met one person. The person pleaded with Gyoki, “I have a bad tumor and it has made me suffer for a long time. I heard the Spa in Arima mountain cures illness. Could you kindly take me there?” To meet the person’s demand, Gyoki took the person to Arima and fulfilled the person’s wishes. Then the person changed to a gold solemn Buddha and rode the clouds to fly to the east.

Gyoki was moved deeply by this, and wrote down Nyohoukyou and buried it in the pond, and built a life-sized Yakushi Nyorai (Buddha who deals with medicine) to enshrine the temple. Yakushi Nyorai (Buddha who deals with medicine)who felt Gyoki’s virtue made him open Arima Spa, found Arima’s prosperity.

In fact, it is said that Arima prospered for 370years since Gyoki constructed the temple.

In the Heian era, much literature tells of many writers, Emperors, ministers who had visited Arima.  Seishonagon(an old lady writer) also wrote “The Spas are Nanakuri Spa, ArimaSpa, Nasu Spa, Tsukasa Spa and Tomoni Spa” in Makuranosoushi, sho highly valued Arima Hot Springs as one of the three famous Spas like Sakakibara Onsen Spa in Ise in those days.

The father of restoration, Ninsai

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In 1097, a natural disaster attacked Arima. “The Onsen Spa temple History” tells “The flood attacked many houses and the spa collapsed in the 1st year of the Emperor Horikawa’s reign”. Nobody tried to restore Arima for 95years since that flood. 

The monk Ninsai who came from Yoshino in Nara Prefecture restored the devastated Arima just after Heike(Taira family) had lost at Genpei-gassen(war between Taira family and Minamoto family).

When Ninsai who was the chief priest of Kougenji (Temple) in Yamato area of Yoshino visited Kumanogongen, he had a dream that told him to go to the devastated Arima Hot Springs to restore it.

Ninsai did not know the way to Arima though he accepted the order. The Kumanogongen advised him to follow the thread of a spider which lived among the trees in the garden.  The next morning, Ninsai followed the thread to go to Arima like in the dream.  But at the pine tree of Nakano village, he lost the thread and his way.  Suddenly one old man showed up and took him to the top of the mountain and told him that one leaf showed him the holy ground through the leaf.

As the words said, he looked for the falling leaf and found the Spa which Gyoki had founded. He found people to succeed him in restoring the Arima Hot Springs 100 years after the Shoutoku’s flood. At the same time as the restoration of the Spa, he repaired Yakushiji (Temple) and started to run twelve Bous (Hotels for monks) in 1191 that was one year before Minamoto no Yoritomo opened Kamakura Bakufu. Survivors of Heike of the Kawakami and Yoda families whom Ninsai took from Yoshino managed the Bous.

Now some hotels in Arima with the letters of Bous follow the story or use it after their name.

Hideyoshi rebuilt Arima

Arima had prospered for a few hundred years in spite of the chaos since the Muromachi era (1336-1573) till the Sengoku era (1467-1573).
In 1528, a conflagration attacked Arima and changed it from a peaceful health resort to a wasteland after three hundred years since Ninsai’s restoration.
Moreover in 1545, when the Miki castle owner Bessho with a huge army attacked Miyoshi-Souzan-Seichou whose castle was located at Ochibayama behind  Zenpuku-ji(Temple), Arima was also hugely damaged. In Tenshou 4 (1576), another conflagration destroyed Arima completely before being rebuilt..

In 1583, Toyotomi Hideyoshi who had defeated Akechi Mitsuhide, Shibata Katsuie and Oda Nobutaka one after another to proceed to rule over Japan visited Arima and took a bath to heal his exhausted body and mind after a long fight. It was famous as it was Hideyoshi’s first bath in Arima. After that he visited Arima many times and supported it.

In 1597, Hideyoshi started to reconstruct Arima on a large scale. The Keicho Fushimi earthquake devastated the Kinki area and it brought not only buildings down but also changed the temperature of the Spa to boiling water. To keep the efficacy of the Spa, Hideyoshi decided to start the reconstruction of the Spa.

For 350 years after Hideyoshi’s reconstruction, Arima cho (Yuyama Town has changed to Arima Town in 1896), Arima kept its prosperity because of Hideyoshi’s great decision in those days. In March of 1598, Hideyoshi planned to take a bath, but heavy rain cancelled it.  Finally he could not take a bath because he was taken ill and died on August 18th

In Edo era

Since the Edo era Arima kept its prosperity and was under the direct control of the government.

But in those days, every hotel did not have their own Spa and shared one public Spa in each town. All bathers had to go out to take a bath. The system of bathing was completely different from today’s system though the Spa became more famous and more bathers visited here after Hideyoshi’s bathing and reconstruction.

The bathhouse was originally seven mats long and three mats broad and the bath tub was 2jo (about 6.06m) and 1jo (about 3.03m) and separated in the middle to make two square bath tubs. The front side was called “Ichinoyu” and the behind side “Ninoyu” and the depth was 3syaku and 7 -8sun (about 30cm).

Twelve Bous which Ninsai opened was increased by twelve after Hideyoshi’s construction and managed as hotels. Ten Bous were in charge of Ichinoyu and Ninoyu and each Bou had two Yuna (helper for bathing). As the number of bathers increased, the number of Hotels increased because Bou started to have “Koyado” (Inns).

In the latter half of Edo era (1603-1867), the people started to visit shrines, temples and Spas. Guideposts helped their travel and you can find the old guideposts in Arima Hot Springs still now.

Arima Hot Springs Tourism Association 790-3 Arima-cho Kita-ku Kobe City, Hyogo Pref. 651-1401 JAPAN
For more information on Arima Hot Springs, please contact Arima Hot Springs Tourist Information Center at 81-78-904-0708
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