These cabins are among the surviving structures at Gilroy Yamato Hot Springs.
These cabins are among the surviving structures at Gilroy Yamato Hot Springs.

GILROY — Gilroy Yamato Hot Springs will present “Children Through History” on Saturday, May 28, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

See Henry W. Coe State Park from a child’s perspective. Enjoy docent and staff tours, activities for the family, and entertainment.

Bring a picnic and friends (pack-in/pack-out). Limited parking available on-site. Carpooling recommended.

Cost is $15 general, free for children under 12 with adult. For reservations, call (408) 314-7185 or email

All proceeds go to GYHS’ efforts to protect, preserve and restore public access to this part of the park.

Directions: Travel east on Leavesley Road, turn left on New Avenue, right on Roop Road, veer left onto Gilroy Hot Springs Road, cross the green bridge and continue to end of road.

A plaque designating Gilroy Yamato Hot Springs as a California Historical Landmark.
A plaque designating Gilroy Yamato Hot Springs as a California Historical Landmark.

Started in 1865 as a warm mineral water resort with hunting, fishing, hiking, and horseback activities for guests, Gilroy Hot Springs was a very popular destination spot for movers and shakers with time and money. Imagine a three-hour train ride from San Francisco to Gilroy, an overnight stay in town, then a three-hour horse and buggy ride up 12 miles of dirt trails to reach the place. This isn’t a quick day trip; most guests stayed one or two weeks, at least.

Many of the founding fathers of the Gilroy township had a financial interest in the Hot Springs. Newspaper articles, printed documents, and family photos show local businessmen and neighboring ranchers enjoyed time at the resort and business collaborations. The business and political associations nurtured by the astute and charismatic Gilroy Hot Springs owners George W. Roop and later William J. McDonald contributed to the success and popularity of the resort.

The site was believed to have the most healing waters in California. These associations resulted in the railroad and Gilroy train station, redwood for the hotel, clubhouse, and cabins, and the Fleishhacker warm water pool. There were many political rallies, high- brow dinner parties and music concerts, flag raisings, and holiday festivities. Gilroy Hot Springs was a destination spot for many decades.

Roop and McDonald loved Gilroy Hot Springs, formed trusted relationships with influential leaders, and left a following of loyal family and friends. The same was true of Harry Kyusaburo Sakata, who later held ownership, adding the word “Yamato” — meaning “Japanese” — and making it the only Japanese-owned mineral spring resort in California. Under Sakata, GYHS reminded many of similar places in Japan and thereby became a place of physical as well as moral, emotional, and spiritual healing.

This shrine was part of the resort.
This shrine was part of the resort.

During World War II, when Japanese Americans throughout the West Coast were incarcerated, Caucasian business partners of Sakata carried on the resort operations at a lessened state of grandeur. After the war, the site briefly served as a hostel for Japanese Americans released from camp. Sakata returned to be an owner and manager of the resort, and invited the community to join him in “the blessing nature … in our search for the power of healing.” The Hot Springs again became a place where Japanese Americans from every corner of California could relax and intermingle. In the 1950s, more Caucasians came and overall attendance climbed.

The sleeping annex was demolished in 1946, and in 1964 Sakata could not afford to meet the requirements of county building inspectors regarding new code for cabin heating systems. Thus, he sold the property to Philip Grimes, a landscape architect from Portola Valley. The hotel and clubhouse burned down in 1980.

The property was operated as a private resort until 1988, when it was purchased by Fukuyama International Inc., headquartered in Osaka, which launched plans for rehabilitation of the property as a Japanese American cultural and recreation center and secured its standing as a California Historical Landmark.

In 2003, the property was purchased by the California Department of Parks and Recreation and added to Henry W. Coe State Park. It is currently closed to the public until a management plan is implemented, and many of the structures have fallen victim to vandalism and the ravages of time and weather. Preservationists have restored one of the cabins to its original condition.

For more information, visit

Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo

Gilroy Yamato Hot Springs volunteer Laura Dominguez-Yon.
Gilroy Yamato Hot Springs volunteer Laura Dominguez-Yon.

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  1. About Gilroy Hot Springs — good news: national historic preservation non-profit Historicorps will be on site to roof two of these cabins and invites 9 volunterrs duringveach of the 3 weeks they’ll be working. Sept 25-29, Oct 4-7, Oct 10-14, 2016. Volunteers will campbon site and be allowed to soak in the mineral water at the end of the workday. Bathing suits required. Learn more and Sign up online at