• Kyodo

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As he watched the deluge in the disaster-hit Fukuoka city of Asakura on TV on July 6, the day after the deadly rains began, Tetsuya Morooka, who runs a traditional inn called Yaguruma So, wondered if there was anything he could do.

The 46-year-old then decided to offer victims and volunteers helping in the cleanup and rescue effort free entry to his facility’s hot spring. Ten other hotels in the city’s Harazuru Onsen district have since started doing the same, handing out free tickets at shelters. About 16,000 people have taken up the offer as of July 30.

“It’s really depressing to think about my house,” said Masahiko Ito, 62, whose house was hit by flooding. “But when I am in a hot spring, I feel relieved.”

Due to flood damage, the facilities have faced a torrent of cancellations. According to an association of inns and hotels in the Harazuru area consisting of 14 facilities, 8,200 guest cancellations were received as of July 17.

“There are days that we get no visitors,” Morooka said. But kind words from disaster victims have been a new source of motivation, he added.

In a bid to help attract more visitors to the area, the Fukuoka Prefectural Government announced Wednesday that it would fund a portion of the costs for people who travel to Asakura.

“This is the first step toward getting our feet back on the ground,” said Yoshihiro Inoue, 48, who heads the association of inns and hotels.

He said that the association will continue the free hot spring service as long as they need it.

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