Kyoto promoting hot springs as additional tourist attraction


Kyoto is promoting an additional attraction little known to date — onsen, or hot springs.

The city of Kyoto has 15 sources of hot springs featuring hydrogen sulfide, natural radium and other ingredients, and there are a total of 22 spa resorts, according to the municipal government.

As the presence of hot springs in the ancient capital of Japan has been little known to date, 18 spa facility operators founded an association under the city office’s leadership in November 2015 in a bid to lure tourists.

The association has started preparations to launch its website and make brochures to introduce the member facilities and hotels as well as access maps to hot springs to relax in after sightseeing.

As hot springs in Japan are becoming popular with tourists from abroad, the association plans to offer related information in English on its website.

Satoshi Kondo, manager of a hot spring inn called Kurama Onsen, in Sakyo Ward, appreciates the association because the individual promotion of services by hotels and other facilities was “limited in terms of both cost and scale.”

Tomoko Sakane, section chief for the promotion of Kyoto’s dietary culture at the city office, said there are many spa resort facilities not only for overnight guests but also day-trippers.

“We want lots of people to know (onsen) as a tourism resource” in Kyoto, she said.

Meanwhile, sprays of mist made exclusively from hot spring water are attracting women in pursuit of beautiful skin, prompting spa resorts across Japan to produce them for local revitalization.

The boom was triggered by Replus Corp. because its additive-free mist spray, released in October 2006 as “onsen cosmetics,” aroused strong interest from women via online blogs and magazines. The Osaka-based company now produces mist sprays on behalf of more than 50 hot-spring areas.

The Tamatsukuri Onsen district in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, used to be a deserted hot spring a decade ago but has flourished with a flood of female tourists thanks to a mist spray developed jointly by Replus and a local company called Hime Labo.

“I wanted to go to a hot spring here because a mist product I received as a local gift matched my skin,” said Moeka Omori, a 22-year-old university student from Kyoto’s Kita Ward.

The Tamatsukuri hot spring has gained in popularity also because Shimane retained its top spot in cosmetics maker Pola Inc.’s prefecture-by-prefecture rankings of residents’ beautiful skin for the fourth year in a row when announced in November 2015.

In Gero Onsen in Gero, Gifu Prefecture, which also sells a mist spray produced by Replus, an official at the association of local inns said the product sells well because Gero is well known as a hot spring.

Tourists come to Gero and “reconfirm the high quality of hot spring water here,” the official said.

However, inn operators in Misasa Onsen in Misasa, Tottori Prefecture, have mixed feelings about the popularity of the “Misasa Mist” spray because the product, which had sold some 350,000 cans by September 2015 since its debut in 2006, has failed to enhance the name recognition of the spa resort area.

“Lots of people still don’t know that the Misasa hot spring is in Tottori,” said Yukiko Tanaka, 44, of the association of local inns. “We should step up efforts to attract more tourists for the survival of this small spa resort town.”

Replus has also aroused demand for other products it has developed, such as lip cream and face masks using hot-spring water from Arima Onsen in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture, and Matsunoyama Onsen in Tokamachi, Niigata Prefecture, respectively.

“We will be happy if more people visit hot springs, prompted by our onsen cosmetics,” said Kazumi Fukuda, head of the marketing department at Replus.