The history of KurokawaOnsen goes back about 300 years. According to a history book, Kurokawa was already popular as a therapeutic bath in the middle of Edo period.
Kurokawa was conveniently located between Hita and Taketa in Oita for many Daimyo (feudal lords) and other travelers to stop for relieving the weariness of their journeys. One of the spas was believed to be good for curing wounds and called “Kizuyu”, meaning “spa for curing wounds.” Even today, this spa is well maintained by the local people and used as a public bath.
KurokawaOnsen’s history as a resort is rather new. In 1961 when Kurokawa Hotel Association was established, there were only six hotels that were inviting general public as guests.
The association made a decision to promote Kurokawa strongly with a concept of “the spa town with a collection of Roten buro(open-air baths).”
After the first tourism boom in 1964, Kurokawa did not gain much popularity up to 1975. However, as the generational change started to occur in the hotel managements, the association member hotels began to work together for reviving KurokawaOnsen. Each hotel started to build its own unique Roten buro(open-air bath). At that time, mass medium created a boom of secluded spas in Japan and Kurokawa gradually got visibility.
To take advantage of the chance, the member hotels made a decision to promote Kurokawa strongly with a concept of “the spa town with a collection of Roten buro(open-air baths)” and accelerated the construction of Roten buro(open-air baths). However, there were two hotels that could not make Roten buro(open-air baths) due to the landform. This was a problem for Kurokawa’s promotional message “every hotel in KurokawaOnsen has its own unique Roten buro(open-air bath).”
Then, the association came up with the “Nyuto Tegata” idea. They took a cue from Nozawa Spa in Nagano Prefecture that was offering tours to go around 13 spas with stamp rally.
Kurokawa’s Nyuto Tegata are made out of slices of local Oguni cedar. People can hang the medal-like Nyuto Tegata around their necks. There are three spa seals placed on the back of each Nyuto Tegata. The Nyuto Tegata are sold for 1300 yen each and valid for six months. People who stay at the hotels without Roten buro(open-air baths) can visit three Roten buro(open-air baths) of other hotels. However, at the beginning, the system did not exactly help making more business for the hotels that did not have any Roten buro(open-air baths).
The Nyuto Tegata sales gradually increased. And, Kurokawa, an unmapped spa, got widely acknowledged for the first time.
In 1986, the association issued the first 6,000 Nyuto Tegata. But they did not sell well. Unsold Nyuto Tegata were taken up by the member hotels. Over time, Kurokawa’s Nyuto Tegata started to receive attention increasingly through mass medium. More than 87,000 Nyuto Tegata were sold in 1992 and over 100,000 in 2000. In 2002, the sales reached a record-high 213,000.
The success of the Nyuto Tegata made KurokawaOnsen one of the most renowned spa resorts in the West Japan. Through this experience, the association members learned the importance of cooperation. The basic philosophy of KurokawaOnsen Hotel Association is “coexistence” rather than “competition.” The Nyuto Tegata business has also contributed to the fund supply to the association. The fund has been used for various business for further development of KurokawaOnsen.
Kurokawa’s Nyuto Tegata is 1300 yen each and good for visiting three spas. The seals placed on the back of a Nyuto Tegata are 400 yen each. 250 yen out of 400 yen goes to the hotels where the visited spas are located. The association’s profit is 190 yen per Nyuto Tegata after deducting various costs. Today, the association earns about 20 to 30 million yen annually from the Nyuto Tegata.
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