"Yui tabi" was born from a precious encounter.
Kinugawa Onsen Hotel is based on the concept of "yui tabi"―the idea of first and foremost cherishing personal ties. The hotel's history goes back to the founder's encounter with Dr. Hepburn, and has continued to develop over the years through "yui" with a variety of individuals.
Kanaya Hotel's roots ― the "Cottage Inn"
This hotel has its beginnings with an encounter between a foreigner who was visiting Nikko Toshogu Shrine―now a World Heritage Site―and Kanaya Zenichiro, who was one of the shrine's gakunin (a performer of "gagaku,” which is a form of traditional music performed at shrines).
In 1871, Zenichiro provided lodging to a certain foreign visitor to Nikko who could not find a place to stay for the night. This was only a few years after Japan had opened its doors to the rest of the world, so there was quite a bit of consternation among the locals for allowing a foreigner to stay in their community. However, Zenichiro was not one to turn a blind eye to someone in need.
As it turned out, this foreigner was Dr. Hepburn, who is well known for establishing the Hepburn romanization system for transcribing Japanese with the Roman alphabet. Moved by Zenichiro's generosity, Hepburn, during a subsequent visit to the Kanaya residence, advised Zenichiro that, "Nikko would need accommodations that catered to foreign visitors in order to develop as an international tourist destination."
Based on this advice, the Kanaya family began providing lodging to foreigners in a section of their home in 1873, and named this guesthouse the "Cottage Inn." This was the beginning of the Kanaya Hotel, which is one of the original hotels in Japan.
Zenichiro's children went on to form one of the most prominent teams of hotel operators in Japan.
Zenichiro Kanaya had three children who would later work together as one of the most prominent teams of hoteliers in Japan.
First son, Shinichi Kanaya
Shinichi took on the position of president of the Nikko Kanaya Hotel from his father in 1927, and became responsible for operating the first hotel in Japan.
Second son, Shozo Kanaya
Shozo married the heiress of the family that ran the Fujiya Hotel in Hakone, and became president of the hotel in 1943, showing himself to be a highly capable manager.
First daughter, Tama Kanaya and her husband Masao
The couple became the first managers of the Kinugawa Onsen Hotel, taking on all operational responsibilities.
Their first son, Senji, was born on August 22, 1910.
Pioneering spirit and foundation for dramatic growth―the construction of a power plant
The lights go on at the Kanaya Hotel in 1908.
As the number of foreign recreational visitors to Nikko grew, so did the number of hotels, and this led to increased competition. Shinichi Kanaya returned to Nikko at the age of 18, after having studied English in Tokyo, to begin his career in the hotel business. Realizing that the availability of electricity would be critical for enhancing the hotel's competitiveness, Shinichi negotiated a deal with a German supplier of power generators and built a private hydroelectric generator, supervising the construction of the plant himself.
Founding an automobile company
Once the power plant was completed, Shinichiro set his sights on automobiles. In 1914, he purchased a used Ford, which he employed for shuttling guests and taking them on tours, a service that became very popular among hotel visitors. Later, Shinichi visited the United States and met with Henry Ford at his factory in Detroit. It is said that Ford offered his support when Shinichi candidly stated that he was eager to expand his automobile business but was short on capital. Perhaps Ford was moved by Shinichi's English proficiency, unwavering confidence, and education.
In the end, Shinichi purchased 14 automobiles, and formed an automobile company which would transform transportation in Nikko.
Leading up to the birth of the Kinugawa Onsen Hotel
"Mr. Kanaya, I will build a hotel for you at Kinugawa Onsen."
These were the words of Kaichiro Nezu, then president of the Tobu Railway.
The Tobu Railway had decided to extend their line from Imaichi to Kinugawa Onsen. In conjunction with this extension, they developed a plan to build a grand ryokan that would accommodate 1,000 guests, on a 23,000 tsubo plot of land that faced Kinugawa Onsen Station.
The local ryokan operators, of which there were about five, vehemently opposed this plan stating that the new ryokan would take all of their business away. However, Nezu was convinced that the Kinugawa Onsen area would become a major hot spring destination once rail transport became available. By promising those opposed to his plans that he would compensate for any losses their ryokans incurred, he was able to complete the Kinugawa Onsen Hotel.
Nezu then transferred the operating rights of the Kinugawa Onsen Hotel to Shinichi. Shinichi had been an important collaborator, in that he had made great efforts amidst strong local opposition in transferring the ownerships of the municipal tram and bus companies from Nezu to Shinichi when the Tobu Railway extended its tracks from Imaichi to Nikko. The Kinugawa Onsen Hotel opened its doors thanks to the strong ties between Kaichiro Nezu and Shinichi Kanaya
Kinugawa Onsen Hotel, the hotel of dreams
The much-awaited Kinugawa Onsen Hotel opened its doors in 1931.
At the time, the hotel was frequented by former royalty and nobility, and charged between 5 and 8 yen per guest, which was the highest rate for accommodations within the Kinugawa Onsen area. Situated on the banks of the Kinugawa River, the hotel provided an exquisite view. The interior had a charm that was best described as glamorous and tasteful. Its bar and grill stocked a wide range of superior domestic and imported wines and spirits. The hotel also offered its guests a variety of bathing areas, as well as a rich range of entertainment facilities, including a dance hall and billiards room. Packed with the best of Japan and the West, this hotel of dreams truly represented the prototype for modern Japanese ryokans.
A new journey
In 1953, Senji Kanaya, the first son of Tama and Masao Kanaya, branched off from the Nikko Kanaya Hotel Co., Ltd. to establish the Kinugawa Onsen Hotel Co., Ltd. and become its first president. Renamed the Kanaya Hotel Kanko Co., Ltd. in 1969, the company engaged in aggressive additions and modifications to create one of the best ryokans in Japan, both in terms of scale and facilities.

Senji Kanaya (John Kanaya)

Senji was born on August 22, 1910. He was the eldest son of Tama Kanaya and her husband Masao.
He made the Kinugawa Onsen Hotel an independent company, introducing new services that many said were a decade ahead  of their time, and growing the company into the Kanaya Hotel Kanko Co., Ltd.

Fuki Kannon―protector of the hotel
The Kinugawa Onsen Hotel has seen a few unfortunate disasters over its long history, namely the fires of 1938 and 1957.
During the second of these fires, Senji heard a women's voice from the far end of the building, and rushed to the rescue. When he got there, instead of a woman, he saw the standing figure of Fuki Kannon (a Buddhist deity that is worshipped throughout Japan). It was quite miraculous that not a single person was injured in this fire, even though it was so intense that there very well should have been fatalities. Convinced that Fuki Kannon had bestowed grace upon them, Senji enshrined a Kannon figure at the hotel. The hotel has not had a single fire since, and has grown to what it is today.
This figure of Fuki Kannon stands at the entrance hall of the Kinugawa Onsen Hotel, and quietly continues to look over the hotel to this day.
Kinugawa Kanaya Hotel, the embodiment of quality
In 1978, the Kinugawa Kanaya Hotel was built in the same area of Kinugawa Onsen, opening its doors as an up-market ryokan on prime land facing Kinugawa Onsen Station. This hotel drew on practices that were developed over a long history to provide the best quality in all aspects of its operations, including facilities and services.
The hotel underwent renovation and reopened in 2012 as the "valley getaway that John Kanaya dearly loved." The hotel's concept incorporates Senji's "heart of hospitality" and "esprit that overflows with aesthetics" in its pursuit of the true meaning of luxury.
Kinugawa Onsen Hotel continues to evolve.
In 2006, the hotel underwent a major renovation to its large bathing area based on the theme, "A relaxation-oriented hotel where guests can come to enjoy its baths." And in 2010, the hotel renovated the front lobby, dining areas, and all guest rooms based on the "yui tabi" theme, redefining itself as a modern hotel that provides a heart-warming, hot spring experience.
1873 Kanaya Hotel's roots―the "Cottage Inn"
1878 Isabella Lucy Bird stayed at Cottage Inn
1879 Kanaya zen-ichiro’s eldest son, Shin-ichiro was born
1882 Kanaya zen-ichiro’s second son, Shozo was born
1888 Kanaya zen-ichiro’s eldest daughter, Tama was born
1893 Opened a Nikko Kanaya Hotel
1905 Frank Lloyd Wright stayed
1908 Power plant is completed
1909 Formed a Nikko Hotel Association by 28 facilities
1910 Kanaya Tama’s eldest son, Senji was born
1914 Automobile company is founded
1922 Albert Einstein stayed
1931 The Kinugawa Onsen Hotel opens
1937 Helen Adams Keller stayed at Nikko Kanaya Hotel
1938 First fire
1942 Kanaya Senji’s eldest son, Teruoi was born
1953 Hotel becomes independent from Nikko Kanaya Hotel. Kanaya Senji assumed a president
1957 Second fire
1973 Kanaya Teruo’s eldest son, Joji was born
1976 Kanaya Teruo assumed a president
1978 Opened a Kinugawa Kanaya Hotel
2010 Renovations are carried out based on the "yui tabi" concept.
2011 Kanaya Joji assumed a president
2014 Concept room "Japanese and Western Room" opened
2015 Concept room "Kiddy Room" opened