JAPANESE GOVERNMENT INVESTIGATING FAKE HOT SPRINGS

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News of fake mineral hot springs ("onsen") surfacing all over Japan has caused a major national scandal. In Ikaho, a spa resort two hours outside of Tokyo with at least 400 years of history, at least seven inns were found passing off tap or well water as local hot springs water. Ikaho receives over 130,000 visitors every year from all around Japan and overseas.

Further claims of 'fake onsens' have been surfacing continuously over the country. According to research conducted by the Environment Ministry, out of over 2 million facilities in the country that provide public hot springs, not even 10% use pure, uncontaminated water taken directly from the natural source.

In Kagoshima Prefecture, a hot spring famous for its unusual green color was revealed to be the result of dissolving household 'Bath-Clean' bath salts into the water. One of the Shirahone Hot Springs chain in Nagano Prefecture, famous for its milky white water, has also been artificially colored with store-bought bath salts. The thermal waters of this hot spring village still gush from the volcanic rock in the folds of Japan's Northern Alps—the sulfur and minerals turn the water milky white as it hits the outside air.

The head of the union of the Shirahone hot spring inns, Yoshio Kohinata admitted that the spring has been artificially colored with commercialized bath salts for eight years, ever since the natural source of the hot spring stopped producing its milky white color ago, The Matsumoto Health Department of Nagano Prefecture ordered the accused hot spring to be temporarily closed until further notice, and have planned an emergency investigation of all 1,150 hot springs in the prefecture.

Even more frightening are the onsen that have taken to recycling water, or allow the same water to sit and be used for a week or longer - a shocking disclosure in a culture raised on the ritual of scrubbing thoroughly before entering what is supposed to be a clean communal tub. An outbreak of Legionnaires' disease at a spa in Hyuga, Miyazaki Prefecture, claimed its first fatality when a man in his 70s died, prefectural officials said. The disease struck visitors to Hyuga Sun-Park Onsen, which opened to the public July 1 but was shut down July 24 after reports linked it to the disease outbreak. The Hyuga Public Health Office conducted water quality checks on the spa's baths and inspected other locations on the premises and found Legionella bacteria up to 150,000 times greater than the permissible level set by the health ministry.