Bleak Scenes

Abandoned places, lesser-known attractions, and assorted oddities

Shin-Hato no Yu Onsen


I came across this little abandoned hot spring resort in the hills north of Lake Tazawa in Akita Prefecture in 2013. I thought the quiet desolation and the natural beauty of the surroundings made it quite photogenic. The resort was on an island in the middle of a large creek, and the footbridge that once provided access had been removed, but I was able to hop from stone to stone across the creek without getting my feet wet.

A strip of land by the side of the road was the closest thing to a car park that I could find. I later looked at the area on Google Maps, which didn't show anywhere for a car park nearby. Presumably when the establishment was opened the owners expected most of the customers to arrive by bus. Perhaps the lack of parking was one reason for its demise.

A sign on the wall of bathhouse referred to a regulation from 2005, so the place must have gone out of business some time after that.

There were two main buildings, one two storey and the other single storey. I didn't find a way inside the two storey structure, although I could perhaps have tried harder. The door to the smaller building was wide open, so anyone who was so inclined could just walk on in, which I did. It contained a kitchen area, and a number of private rooms which the customers could hire. The bathhouse was attached to one end.

Most of the equipment and supplies had been left behind. Apart from the dirt and the boarded-up windows, the place probably looked much like it did on its last day of business. A closet was still well stocked with futons and blankets, so I could have saved myself the cost of a night's accommodation by using them to sleep in one of the rooms. Although I'm far from wealthy, my financial situation wasn't dire enough for that.

The bathhouse itself was an insubstantial wood-framed building with walls made of corrugated plastic sheets. Most of it had already collapsed. I thought it seemed rather pointless to travel to such a remote and scenic location only to have a bath inside a plastic shed which gave no view of the surroundings.

The floor in the corridor was covered in quite a thick layer of mud, so the creek probably rises into the building at times. This may have been a factor in the decision to abandon the place.

The plumbing that once carried the hot water to the baths was gone, but the pipe leading down to the spring had been left in place. Although there was now nobody around to enjoy it, a steady stream of hot water still issued from the pipe, collected in a little pool, overflowed into the creek, and flowed forlornly downstream. A faint odour of hydrogen sulphide hung in the air.

The was some stonework around the pipe, which may have been a rotenburo (outdoor bath) before the creek washed most of it away. I don't know if the water was dangerously hot, but I erred on the side of caution and kept my distance for fear of falling in. Boiling alive has always struck me as an extremely unpleasant way to die.