The renowned Arima Onsen is one of Japan’s oldest hot springs. The number of visitors decreased after the collapse of the bubble economy, but urban development in recent years paid off, successfully increasing the number of visitors. By targeting both domestic and inbound tourists, Arima Onsen has become a popular hot spring spot that provides an ancient cityscape that travelers flock to from around the world.
From the domestic market to the global market
This project began upon request from Mr. Kanai, owner of TÓCEN GOSHOBOH, who is a key player in the revival of Arima Onsen. Along with other young owners who are also responsible for the future generation, we reviewed Arima Onsen from a global perspective and created a multilingual website that genuinely conveyed the beauty and highlights of this area.
Taking a cultural approach for foreign visitors
As the domestic market is expected to shrink, Arima Onsen must consider targeting international visitors. While we enjoy the current inbound tourism boom, it was crucial to make Arima Onsen known in the overseas market and establish its position as a tourism brand to prepare for the post-boom period. We took a cultural approach with our eyes on individual, American, and European travelers. The branding project commenced under the tagline “ARIMA HISTORICAL RETREAT & SPA”.
Onsen therapy, a mixture of Buddhism and Western culture
Our first step was to investigate history. We examined the extensive history of Arima Onsen through documents, photographs from the Meiji to Showa period, ancient maps, and interviewing the locals. That’s how the toji (onsen therapy) culture captured our attention. It was Buddhist monk Gyōgi who opened up Arima Onsen. People during the Edo period followed the custom of saying the Buddhist chant “Namu Amida Butsu” before taking a bath in an onsen. At Arima Onsen, there are various well-established inns which names end with “boh” like “Goshoboh.” Having a name ending with “boh” indicates that temples entrusted them to manage hot spring sources. Thus, our branding was designed under the onsen therapy concept to convey the connection between Arima Onsen and Buddhism.
In addition to its deep roots in temples and the Buddhist faith, Arima’s culture was also strongly influenced by Western culture after opening the Port of Kobe, the prime example being Kobe Beef. We came up with the design theme “the collaboration between Buddhism and Western culture” to express Arima’s culture/vision and created a website that embodies Arima’s history cultivated in the mountain range. We invited a well-known Taiwanese travel blogger, Carol Lin to write articles. It’s a multilingual website created from an international perspective that provides information on Arima’s rich “onsen therapy” culture.
Developing into Asia’s sightseeing destination
Individual tourists, both domestic and international, are currently flocking to Arima Onsen and inns are reaching full occupancy. We partnered up with Slow Food International to register the local Arima Sansho (Japanese pepper) internationally and built Arima Koyado-Hataya, a small inn that restored a traditional machiya townhouse damaged in a fire through the “Restoring 1,000 Buildings in Arima” project. Instead of being satisfied with its current state, Arima Onsen will continue to evolve as Asia’s sightseeing destination.