Onsen In Matsue Wins Top Award For Once - Deserted Hot Spring Town

Onsen in Matsue wins top award for once-deserted hot spring townTamatsukuri Onsen hot spring here has won the Environment Minister’s Prize, the top honor at a major new national hot springs awards ceremony, in recognition of its remarkable success in reversing this resort town’s decline.
The onsen was commended for attracting a new influx of visitors with its promise of “beautiful skin.”

“Tamatsukuri Onsen has transformed from a deserted hot spring town to a bustling one where people enjoy the water all day, giving it back its vibrant atmosphere,” said Masaaki Shingu, head of the Tamatsukuri Onsen branch of the Matsue Tourism Association.

“We will carry on trying to make the hot spring town even more fascinating.”

Shingu visited Matsue city hall to report the award success to Mayor Masataka Matsuura on Nov. 28.

The inaugural event, dubbed “Onsen So-senkyo,” (general election of hot springs), held in Tokyo on Nov. 25, saw 125 hot springs from 104 municipalities across the country being judged on various criteria.

Uruoi (moisture) Japan Project hosted the competition with the aim of promoting the benefits of hot springs to tourists from Japan and abroad. Participating establishments entered in eight categories including best facilities for families, girls’ trips, and foreign visitors.

The selection committee included representatives of the Environment Ministry, Japan Spa Association Hot Spring of Japan, the Japanese Society of Balneology, Climatology and Physical Medicine, and others. They judged the entrants based on criteria including rejuvenation efforts, ripple effects, preservation of hot spring sources, and appropriate uses of hot springs.

Tamatsukuri Onsen not only claimed victory in the “moist skin” category, but also won the Environment Minister’s Prize, beating 23 other municipalities representing the top three entries in each of the eight categories.

“Local residents have been getting involved in the town development focusing on the hot spring’s efficacy for ‘beautiful skin,’ which led to regaining a certain number of hot spring goers,” said an official from the Environment Ministry’s office for promotion of preservation and uses of hot spring areas.

Uruoi Japan Project was launched in collaboration with the public and private sectors in 2014. The educational project is aimed at raising awareness of health and water resources, with the participation of the Environment Ministry, Japanese municipalities and private enterprises.

The room occupancy rate of “ryokan” inns in Tamatsukuri Onsen fell to just 34 percent in 2001, mainly due to a decline in the number of visiting groups. The hot spring district started to devote itself in 2007 to developing basic skin care products utilizing the hot spring source, as well as promoting tours incorporating visits to shrines and temples, under the theme of “beautiful skin.”

The town’s efforts in promoting experiences there include staging a 45-day festival and hosting hot spring field trips planned by the Tamakira committee, which consists of young local shop owners among others.

The hard work has paid off, and the number of young female individual customers has increased. The room occupancy rate increased to 73 percent in 2015 and the total number of visitors reached 1.05 million in 2015, up from 890,000 in 2001, according to the Tamatsukuri Onsen branch of Matsue Tourism Association.