Hot Springs are Fantastic! Let’s Bring Hot Springs to the Disaster Zone.

Delivering Hot Spring Water from Onikobe Onsen to Evacuation Centers

In cooperation with Manyo Club Co., Ltd. (Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture), Ascendia Inc. (Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo) and others, AAR JAPAN has been implementing the project “Let’s Bring Hot Springs to the Disaster Zone.” Since April 12th, we have provided hot spring water to Miyako Elementary School on Miyako Island, Higashi-Matsushima City, Miyagi Prefecture.

Around 900 residents of the island evacuated to the gymnasium of Miyako Elementary School immediately after the Great East Japan Earthquake. About 20 residents of Ohama, one of the island’s villages, remain there now, and it has been only two days since 24-hour electricity was re-established.

In cooperation with Onikobe Onsen (hot spring) in the Naruko Onsen area of Miyagi Prefecture, hot spring water has been delivered by tank truck to a bath in the elementary school playground prepared by the Self-Defense Force. Hot baths are offered from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. every day except Sunday, with access rotating between men and women each day.  

April 27th – There are two bathtubs in the tent. The rear tub is used for washing and rinsing, while the tub in the foreground is for soaking. The space in front is used for changing. (Higashi-Matsushima city, Miyagi Prefecture)

Giving People a Little Chance to Relax in the Bath

People arrive promptly to enjoy the hot spring water at 4:00. The bath is open to anyone, not only those in the evacuation center, so residents come on foot, by bicycle and by car, with about 80 people visiting each day.

Today is men’s day. Mr. Toshiaki HIYAMA comes every day the bath is open, riding 1 km from his home. He told us, “I’ll pedal as far as I have to to get into this bath!” Mr. HIYAMA lives alone, and has been living off meals at the Self-Defense Force soup kitchen or eating bento (meal boxes) that are provided for survivors. “There are no shops near my house, so I have to go a long way to buy even little things,” he said. “It’s not easy, but everyone is having a hard time. At least I can live in my own house, so I can’t complain.”

After soaking in the bath, people can receive supplies such as coffee, biscuits, and popcorn in front of the tent.

Although people in the affected areas are still experiencing significant difficulties, they seem relaxed and comforted by their time in the hot spring water. We will continue this project until the end of the Golden Week holiday in May.

April 27th – “The water temperature is fantastic!” says Mr. HIYAMA, who comes to enjoy the hot springs by bicycle every day. (Higashi-Matsushima City, Miyagi Prefecture)

April 27th – “Bathing is great. It’s refreshing,” says Mr. ONO, holding supplies of distributed coffee. He is staying at the evacuation center in Miyako Elementary School. (Higashi-Matsushima City, Miyagi Prefecture)

April 27th – This specialized tank truck, provided by Manyo Club Co., Ltd., Kanagawa Prefecture, can maintain the temperature of hot spring water over long distances. (Higashi-Matsushima City, Miyagi Prefecture) (Photo by Onikobe School)

April 27th – Members of the Self-Defense Force set up and manage the hot springs. Here hot water is stored in a container outside the tent so that it can be added to the tubs later. Miyako Elementary School can be seen in the background. (Higashi-Matsushima City, Miyagi Prefecture) (Photo by Onikobe School)

*This project has been carried out in cooperation with Manyo Club Co., Ltd.; Osaki City, Miyagi Prefecture; Ascendia Inc.; Naruko Tourism Research Institute; Yamagakko Council; and AAR JAPAN.

Yoshitaka SUGISAWA (Tokyo Office)
Has been working at AAR since May 2010, in charge of domestic activities.
Worked in a private company after graduation from university before joining AAR.
Engaged in emergency assistance for flooding in Pakistan in 2010.
(Born in Ibaraki Prefecture)