Long Nice Hot Spring and Japanese Crown Prince Hirohito
▲The “His Imperial Highness Crown Prince of Japan’s River Crossing Memorial” is an important historical relic marking the visit of Japanese Crown Prince Hirohito. (Photo: Chic-Jen Yan)
In 1895, the first privately-owned hot spring hotel, Tiangouan (天狗庵), opened along Beitou Creek (北投溪), kicking off a love affair between Taiwanese people and the spa experience. In around 1907, inspired by this new type of hostelry, Beitou residents set up a sento (pay public bathhouse in Japanese), which consisted of a rustic wood and stone hut under the second taki of Beitou Creek. (The Japanese word taki refers to a small waterfall at where the riverbed drops.) This hot spring waterfall was situated appealingly close to the sento entrance, and the bathhouse was named Taki No Yu (瀧乃湯), now rechristened Long Nice Hot Spring. As the admission was only 3 cents (in old Taiwanese money), it was also dubbed San Xian Jian (三仙間), or Three Cent House. This was the first hot spring pool opened to the public, and is still the oldest existing bathhouse in Beitou.
From its wooden building to its stone pools, Long Nice Hot Spring preserves its history well. In the yard, you will see the “His Imperial Highness Crown Prince of Japan’s River Crossing Memorial,” celebrating Crown Prince (later Emperor) Hirohito’s Taiwan trip. Erected in April 1923, this stele might seem humble, but it is an important historical relic marking the Japanese royal family’s visit to Beitou.
Crown Prince Hirohito was a student of science, and he had heard that Beitou Creek was one of only two hot springs in the world that contained a rare radioactive mineral. So, on his visit to Beitou, he decided to walk into the creek to investigate. Naturally, concerned for a royal family member’s safety, his entourage scurried around the second taki of Beitou Creek, seeking flat rocks to use as stepping stones. After that, these stones were carefully mounted and given the official name: “His Imperial Highness Crown Prince of Japan’s Stepping Stones for River Crossing,” with a stele alongside to tell the story.
Preserving the Original Hot Spring’s Look
By the end of World War II, most of these stones had disappeared. People erected another memorial to His Imperial Highness Crown Prince, but it was pulled down by persons unknown and scattered along the road. Lin Jiahuei (林佳慧), the third generation owner of Long Nice Hot Spring, recalls that when her grandfather first took over the business, he found this stele abandoned on Beitou Creek, next to the bathhouse. He thought it looked like good quality stone, and that it would be a shame to leave it lying there. So, he took it back and placed it in their yard where it still sits. She says with a smile, “When I was a kid, I didn’t realize this stone stele’s historical significance, and often used it as a stool to sit on.”
▲The original stone pool at Long Nice Hot Spring. (Photo: Chic-Jen Yan)
Now, Emperor Hirohito is long gone, but the ancient hot spring flows on just the same. Lin says that in the early days, women were not allowed to enter hot spring pools, so at first, Long Nice Hot Spring only offered bathing for men. Those pools were built with local stones from Qilian (唭哩岸) and sealed with a slurry of sulfur to prevent erosion and osmotic infiltration from Beitou’s green sulfurous spring water. This is why these pools still keep their original Meiji Sento look. Not until Lin’s grandfather took over the operation did they build women’s pools, also out of Qilian stone, which gives them a rustic and old-world look. Today, mining restrictions prevent the removal of any more stones from Qilian. In the early days, there were three famous hot springs in Beitou: Long Nice Hot Spring, Xingnai Hot Spring (星乃湯), also known as Yitsun Hotel (逸邨大飯店), and the Yinsong Building (吟松閣). Now only Long Nice Hot Spring remains. Come to Beitou on a cold day, enjoy its hot springs and feel refreshed.
Long Nice Hot Spring
244, Guangming Rd., Beitou Dist.
06:30~21:00 (Closed on Wed)
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