Wait, hot springs can freeze?

With Japan going through an extreme cold snap, plenty of people are daydreaming of escaping to their nearest hot spring resort for an extended soak. So when the staff at Tsuruya Intaku, a traditional ryokan inn in Oita Prefecture, came in to work last Friday morning, they had a big problem: their “hot” spring had frozen.

Instead of a stream of naturally heated water pouring elegantly into the bathtub from the basin it’s pumped up to, there was a semicircular block of ice filling the intermediary receptacle.

The photo shocked many Japanese Twitters, since even onsen/温泉, the Japanese word for “hot spring,” is composed of the kanji 温 (“warm”) and 泉 (“spring”), which makes the idea that one can freeze something that most people never stop to think about.

Thankfully, chilly as the weather was, the hot spring wasn’t frozen solid at its source. Instead, the hot water froze inside the pipes as it was pumped up to the ryokan, and so the staff went to work wrapping the pipes and valves in towels, then pouring lukewarm water onto them in an effort to heat them up enough so that hot spring water that was actually hot could start flowing again. This turned out to be easier said than done, though, as an hour and a half after the initial sweet the onsen’s path was still frozen, causing Tsuruya Intaku to tweet “Okay, onsen, we’re starting to angry here.” Three hours after the problem was spotted, the ice still hadn’t thawed, and the tub was still empty.

Luckily, the same snowy weather that caused the onsen to freeze also meant that no guests had made reservations at the inn that day. Eventually the staff’s perseverance paid off, and at 1:30 in the afternoon, after five hours of work, the hot spring water started flowing again.

▼ “We can hear the theme song from the movie Armageddon playing in our heads,” Tsuruya Intaku triumphantly tweeted.

The forecast this week for Oita calls for afternoon highs around 12 degrees Celsius (54 Fahrenheit), and overnight lows near 3 degrees (37 Fahrenheit), which should be back in that happy medium of cold enough to make an onsen soak feel great, but warm enough to keep the water from freezing.

Source: Twitter/@turuyaintaku via IT Media
Featured image: Twitter/@turuyaintaku