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Hot Springs - Beginner

L Located 120 km north of Tokyo in Tochigi Prefecture rests the resort town of Kinugawa. The area is well known for hot springs and was once considered one of the most famous resort towns in the Tokyo area. Kinugawa is in reference to the river valley where the hot springs are found and means ‘angry demon’ in English. Roughly 2 million tourists still come to enjoy the springs every year. The water of the springs is soft alkaline which is said to be good for the skin, and especially effective in the treatment of burns.The first hot springs were discovered in 1691 along the west bank of the river. This hot spring was called Taki and was reserved for daimyo lords and Buddhist priests of that era. The springs were eventually opened for commoners and in 1869 more hot springs were discovered on the east bank of the Kinugawa River. This area is known as Fujiwara. The combination of Taki and Fujiwara hot springs is today known as Kinugawa Hot Springs. During the 1950s and 1960’s the area became very popular with tourists. In the 1970’s and 1980’s massive hotels were built alongside the river in an attempt to cater to the sites growing popularity.Unfortunately, the Japanese economy crashed in the 1990’s leaving many of the local businesses and hotels bankrupt. Today abandoned buildings still stand in the Kinugawa area, although many have been removed. The town was even rated by Japan’s most senior urban planner as the 3rd biggest eyesore in Japan because of the uninspired concrete architecture which was built during Japan’s economic boom and shows little regard for design or style.There are still hot springs for bathing in Kinugawa but the natural appeal that must have existed in the area many years ago may be difficult to find. A few tourist attractions such as Tobu World Square, which has over 100 miniature models of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and Nikko Edomura, an Edo period styled amusement park hope to entice future visitors.

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