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West Japan hot spring opens huge open-air river bath

Local children and tourists soak up the atmosphere at a large open-air bath created in a riverbed at Kawayu Hot Spring in the city of Tanabe, Wakayama Prefecture, in western Japan, on Dec. 1, 2019. (Mainichi/Naoto Yamanaka)

TANABE, Wakayama -- A large open-air river bath began to welcome guests on Dec. 1 as part of an annual event at Kawayu Hot Spring in this western Japan city.

The "sennin buro," meaning mountain hermit bath, has been prepared every winter since 1985 by the local Kumano Hongu Tourist Association and an executive committee. The bath -- measuring 28 meters long, 12 meters wide and up to 60 centimeters in depth -- was created by digging into the bed of the Oto River and storing the hot spring water that gushed out from the ground. Cold water from the river is used to adjust the temperature of the pool. The waters apparently help ease nerve and muscle pain.

After an opening ceremony on Dec. 1, about 30 local day care center children and tourists enjoyed taking a refreshing bath. Makoto Obuchi, head of the executive committee for the facility, said, "Last year we couldn't open the bath for a long period due to typhoon damage. This year we could prepare a lovely bath and we hope that many people will enjoy it."

The bath is open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. free of charge until the end of February. Users are required to wear bathing suits or wrap their bodies with a towel. For inquiries, call the Kumano Hongu Tourist Association on 0735-42-0735 (in Japanese).

(Japanese original by Naoto Yamanaka, Tanabe Local Bureau)

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