A once-thriving, desolate-looking onsen (hot spring) town in eastern Japan is undergoing a transformation through a project that could work as a promising model for enlivening other struggling resorts across the country.

Students from the Graduate School of the University of Tokyo are at the center of the project that aims to restore Minakami Onsen to its past glory as a tourism hot spot in collaboration with local authorities and private companies.

The mountainous Gunma Prefecture town is located around two hours by car or train from Tokyo and known as a base for such outdoor activities as climbing, trekking, skiing and rafting.