Art Festival at Japan’s Oldest Hot Spring Area!

Have you heard of Dogo Onsen, the hot spring that is said to be the oldest in Japan?
Popular with tourists, the Dogo Onsen Honkan (main building) is located in the center of the hot spring district of Matsuyama city, Ehime prefecture. Appearing in legends and historical literature, including Manyoushuu and Natsume Soseki’s novel “Botchan” among others, Dogo is known as one of Japan’s three great ancient hot springs. It is also said to have been one of the inspirations for the bathhouse in the animated movie “Spirited Away”.
In celebration of the 120th anniversary of the building’s reconstruction, from April 10th to December 31st 2014 an art festival called “Dogo Onsenart 2014” is in session.

An art festival in a hot spring district?! Dogo after 1,000 years as art!
I have a hunch that there will be plenty of interesting experiences…
The artists are displaying their work all over the hot spring district – we will introduce a few of them.

First off, the Honkan of Dogo Onsen.



Take a look at the roof of the Dogo Onsen’s Honkan bathed in fairy-tail-like light.
There are various legends about Dogo Onsen. Among them, one of my favorites is the “Legend of the White Heron”.

In ancient times, a white heron that had hurt its foot soaked its damaged appendage in the hot water flowing between the stones. The wound healed and the heron flew away. In the story, the villagers who saw this realized the positive effects of the hot spring waters.
The white heron became the symbol of Dogo onsen and has been placed on the roof of the Honkan.


Though the Honkan’s entrance is currently on the west side, it was once on the north side.  Apparently, this particular heron used to indicate where the former entrance was.



Seven times a day during the session period, the outside of the Honkan is bathed in mist. On the north side you can find the legendary stone, “Tama no ishi”, on which a god called Sukunahikona is said to have danced. In a fairy-tail-like performance, it almost seems as if a god might appear!



Fog sculpture

Place: Dogo Onsen Honkan Northern Facade
Artist: Fujiko Nakaya
Times displayed: 9:15, 11:15, 13:15, 15:15, 17:15, 19:15, 21:15 (3 minutes long)

Next, pay attention to the “Giant Shadow Pictures” displayed all over the area around Dogo onsen.

Scientists predict that in 1,000 years time the level of the world’s oceans will be 70 meters higher than today, which will mean that the sea will also swallow Dogo onsen.

Even if this area is covered by the sea, Dogo onsen should still exist… but in what form? To answer that question, an environmental designer & artist Stephen Mushin turned the ideas of local people into a dreamlike story of shadow pictures.
In total, the Giant Shadow Pictures can be found in 13 places.

There are some hard to find places, but you can find them using a map.
For people who would like to hear a more detailed description while looking at the pictures, we recommend taking a “Shinrotei” tour offered by volunteer guides.

Next, we will introduce two of the giant shadow pictures.


Floating Dogo Onsen:

The first pipe brings warm water up from underground, and the other blows it into a balloon.



Heat source

Place: Dogo Onsen (Kanmuriyama Office) east side wall
Artist: Stephen Mushin
Display time: 17:00~22:00

This is the next piece:
At Dogo Onsen there is a steam locomotive called “Botchan ressha” (Young master’s train). In the future this train will change into a cable car connecting the floating Matsuyama castle and Dogo Onsen Honkan.



Botchan ressha:

Place: Dogo Onsen station
Artist: Stephen Mushin
Display time: 17:00~22:00

I wonder if the world will be like this…? Right now, we can’t imagine…

Visited by many city residents as well, the next art piece uses light and sound and is found in the lobby of Tsubaki-no-yu, the sister building of Dogo Onsen Honkan.
Light flickers in cycles, and relaxing music echoes around the space.




Place: Tsubaki-no-yu (1st floor lobby)
Artist: Kohske Kawase

Display time: 6:30~23:00 (for a period of 10 minutes every half-an-hour)

Next, pay attention to the outer wall of Tsubaki-no-yu!
There’s a giant sculpture embodying an ancient tale, which begins with the legend of the white heron. The giant toy-like sculpture pushes out from the outer wall.



Fabula – 10 thousand stories

Place: Wall of Tsubaki-no-yu
Artist: Lilian Bourgeat
Display time: All day

Last is the Japanese garden of a well-established ryokan called “Funaya” that has been in business since the Kan’ei period (early to mid 15th century). A lighting designer known for his work at the Japanese garden at Rikugi-en (Tokyo) created the lighting for this abundantly green garden.
A garden that changes according to the season…
Enjoyed since the Edo period, this garden (Efuen) has been visited by literary people such as Shiki Masaoka, Soseki Natsume and Akiko Yosano.
Watching the fairy-tale-like garden, you can almost forget the time.



“Eifutei Garden – Story of Light”

Place: Funaya

Artist: Tomokazu Ishikawa
Time: 18:00~21:30

Fee: Adults JPY800, Children JPY600  *Drink voucher included

Dogo, a city of history & legends…

The artists show us the new face of the city connecting to the future while cherishing the old and good. Dogo Onsenart’s finale will be on December 31st 2014.
2014 Dogo Onsenart 2014

In session: April 10th (Thu) to December 31st (Wed) 2014

Location: 1656-1 Dogoyuzuki-cho, Matsuyama city, Ehime prefecture
Tel: 089-933-0710

Business hours: (Mon – Thu) 11:00-18:00
(Fridays, Saturdays & Days before public holidays) 11:00 – 21.30

Holidays: No holidays
HP: (available in English)
Setouchi Finder Photo-writer: Maki Oohashi



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