How old is this onsen?
I've read that it is 2,000 years old. On my first visit there, the tour guide confirmed that.Other references put it at 3,000 years old, but that is questionable."The springs are mentioned in the Man'yōshū (written c. 759), and according to legend even Prince Shotoku (574-622) used to partake of the waters."Taken from this link.Wikipedia Entry
As you said, there are many onsen in that area. All of them are using the same "magical" water source as well.I had Japanese friends take me to both Yamatoya and Funaya (where the Imperial Family stayed). Both are next to Dogo and incredibly elegant.Just don't expect a bathing theme park :) All of these baths are traditional and minimalist.
It is surprising how popular the area is.
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