• Kyodo

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In the latest twist in a recent series of scandals involving “onsen” hot springs, Miyagi Prefectural Police raided an inn in suburban Sendai and its operator Thursday for using real hot spring water — illegally.

Police searched Sansui-tei inn in the Sakunami Onsen resort and the house of Hisao Narisawa, whose company runs the inn, on suspicion that the inn used onsen water for its customers’ bathing facilities without permission from local authorities, officials said.

Under the Hot Spring Law, people can be punished for drilling a hot spring without prefectural government permission. Innkeepers are also required to get a local license before using hot spring water for customer baths.

In 1995, the Miyagi Prefectural Government directed Sansui-tei to not tap the hot spring it had drilled without a license, and in the following year local authorities confirmed the inn had removed pipes that pumped up the water from the source.

The source was located in an area where drilling has been banned since 1975.

However, it turned out that the inn has resumed using the water.

After a recent series of revelations that a number of “hot spring” inns nationwide have in fact used heated tap water for their baths, an association of Sakunami Onsen innkeepers surveyed its members on the issue.

To the survey, Sansui-tei responded that it had falsely claimed to be a hot spring inn even though it was using heated well water.

But when prefectural officials examined the “well water,” it turned out the water temperature was above 25 at the source, which fits the onsen criteria under the law.

The proof of authenticity, however, was also evidence that the inn had continued to illegally use the hot spring. Last week, the prefecture ordered the inn to cover over the onsen source, and its operator has vowed to comply.

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