Ogoto Onsen (hot springs) (雄琴温泉) (雄琴温泉)
Ogoto Onsen is in Otsu City, Shiga Prefecture (Omi Province (近江国) is its old provincial name). Although Ogoto Onsen projects an image of hot springs with nightlife districts, it is the biggest Onsen with the longest history in Shiga Prefecture. It is one of the hot spring resorts that are dramatically changing in recent years.
Ogoto Onsen was certified as a 'local brand' (regional organization trademark) on October 27, 2006.
Rail: Take the West Japan Railway Company (JR West) Kosei Line and get off at the Ogoto onsen Station.
Roads: Take the Meishin Expressway and get off at Kyoto-Higashi (the eastern Kyoto) interchange, then take the Biwako nishi jukan road and get off at Ogi-Ogoto interchange, and then go southward on the Route 161 for about 500 m.
Alkaline simple hot spring (hot spring with hypotonic alkaline level)
Hot spring resort
About 10 inns and hotels are located on both side of the Route 161. The views as Lake Biwa are excellent from those accommodations, because they are set along the foot of Hira Mountain Country. On the other hand, the area also developed as a hot spring resort with a nightlife district, and especially the red-light area (area of brothels where one can bathe with the prostitutes) had been a major obstacle, which came in the way of the holidaymakers and tourists coming to the resort area.
In recent years, the resort area has been trying to dispel the image of red-light area so as to survive. The inns were successively renovated to attract tourists who are females and families but large parties of tourists, and it is coming to fruition. Also the resort area encouraged the Ogoto Station, the closest station to the area, to change its name, and as the result, it was changed to 'Ogoto onsen Station' on March 15, 2008.
There are many cultural properties, which associated with the history of Japan, such as Enryaku-ji Temple on Mt. Hiei (比叡山延暦寺), Monzen-machi (門前町) (a temple town) in Sakamoto (Otsu City), Hiyoshi-taisha Shrine (日吉大社), Ukimi-do (浮御堂) in Katata (Otsu City), Onjo-ji Temple (Mii-dera Temple) (園城寺 [三井寺]), and Ishiyama-dera Temple (石山寺), which is famous for Murasaki Shikibu (紫式部), and thus, the area is the best base for sightseeing. As the local specialties there are Duck dishes and Omi beef dishes, and especially kamonabe (鴨鍋) (a hot pot with duck as one of the ingredients) is the one that represents Ogoto.
The red-light area, built on the lakeside located on the south of the hot springs resort area, is the direct cause that damages the image of the resort area. The location of the red-light area is limited to a small area on the south of Ogoto Port, thus it will not be mixed up with the resort area. However, it is partly unavoidable that the resort area is mixed up with the red-light area by the people living in the other areas of Japan, because they are located within 1 square kilometer. The hot spring belongs to Ogoto Onsen is not brought to the special bathhouses (brothels) located in the red-light district, thus there are no relations between the resort area and the red-light district as hot springs. However, in fact, the red-light area played a part in attracting guests for Ogoto Onsen, which developed as a hot springs resort with red-light areas, after the war.
Although it is said that the hot springs were discovered by Dengyo Daishi Saicho (伝教大師最澄) about 1,200 years ago, another story written below exists. It is said that there was a big snake with 8 heads living around the site, and the valley that the big snake lived had a pond called Nenbutsuike. The villagers believed that the pond cures diseases, and threw coins in it while chanting nenbutsu (Buddhist invocation). This story is said to be the origin of Ogoto Onsen.
The place-name Ogoto (雄琴) was named after the Chinese character '雄' (o) of Imaonosukune (今雄宿禰), an aristocrat who owned a shoen (manor in medieval Japan) around that area in the Heian period, and the Chinese character '琴' (koto) (a long Japanese zither with thirteen strings), because the sound of koto was often heard around the mansion of Imaonosukune.
Ogoto developed as a area where one can enjoy adult entertainment of Kansai region due to its good traffic accessibility, after the war. Especially, at the beginning of 1970s, with the number of the large parties of tourists visiting Ogoto onsen increased, the red-light area was also built on a broad scale. Many adult-entertainment businesses flew into this area, because Turkish bath (kind of a adult entertainment of the time) businesses were barred from Kyoto Prefecture in March 1971. However, these businesses dramatically damaged the image of Ogoto. Publishers of travel guidebooks intentionally avoided Ogoto from their books and an absurd rumor, said any women swim in Lake Biwa near Ogoto gets pregnant, was running rampant up until the late '90s.
The Kosei Line of Japan National Railways (at that time) was opened up on July 20, 1974.
After the collapse of the '90s bubble, the number of the tourists visiting Ogoto had declined, and the owners of the accommodations started to renovate the buildings to survive from the late 1990s. The names of these accommodations were also changed one after another.
'Ogoto International Hotel Kikunoya (雄琴国際ホテルきくのや)' became 'Dantokan Kikunoya (暖灯館きくのや),' 'Kokkaso (國華荘)' became 'Biwako Hanakaido (びわ湖花街道),' and 'Royal Hotel Yuzanso (ロイヤルホテル雄山荘)' became 'Satoyu mukashibanashi Yuzanso (里湯昔話雄山荘).'
This shows their new direction as a hot springs resort for tourism and recreation. Those accommodations are also building new annexes or dependences only with rooms with open air bathes. Not only changing the names and renovating the buildings of their accommodations but they are also offering elaborately built open air bathes, inventive dishes, and revising the services. The competition among those accommodations creates positive synergetic effect, by which stable development that raises repeat guests and new customers continues and the number of visitors, used to be decreasing, now are coming back little by little. Those accommodations also take in school trip customers visiting Kyoto area.
The red-light area
On the other side, the red-light area is one of the biggest special bathhouse (brothel) areas in Kansai region along with the one in Fukuhara, Kobe City, and it is also true that the red-light area plays a role in attracting guests for the hot springs resort area. However, the red-light area is separated from the hot springs resort area, and there are no problems for the regular customers to enjoy the stay and recreation.
The number of the special bathhouses (brothels) is in decline and the red-light area is going down.