Friday, 7 May 2010

Tamagawa onsen

Tamagawa onsen, steamy, sulfurous,  radioactive, draws crowds from across Japan.  It's Japan's most acidic onsen - ph 1.1  and also the only one that is radioactive.   It looks post nuclear holocaust - barren rocks, devoid of greenery - moonscape comes to mind but I am sure the moon doesn't steam and splutter.  It would be fitting backdrop for Dante's inferno.
In the 'olden days' it had barrack accommodation and was popular among Akita and Iwate farmers as a place to rest, relax and recouperate for a few weeks after the rice planting season. If I remember rightly,   Hiro's grandparents used to bring their own cooking equipment and spend the daytimes  soaking.   With such acidic water, it should avoided by anyone with cuts or bruises, unless utterly masochistic.   These days Tamagawa attracts people from across the country.  TV programs have touted the curative properties of the radiation and the outdoor area had large clusters of people lying down, baking themselves on thin bamboo bedrolls,  covered by sleeping bags, blankets and other layers to keep the heat in... Some people had pitched tents... 
We skipped a dip in the onsen, even though some baths there have diluted water, and the acid wouln't have been much of a problem, onsens aren't much fun when they are crowed, and the number of cars in the carpark suggested they would have been.  At some stage I'd like to return to try it. :)
And so to arrive before it started to get dark, we pushed north, through the Hachimantai national park towards Odate.

This website has good info. on Tamagawa Onsen.
Settled in for the afternoon
or perhaps the night?

Steam coming off boiling water
Sulforuous steam
Steam rising with snow in the background
Snow and steam
Some water was icy cold from the melting snow, some was boiling furiously. I only dipped my hand in the former ;)\
Dante's inferno

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