Bathing is a very important aspect of Japanese culture, deeply rooted in centuries-old traditions. Although most apartments and houses have their own baths nowadays (unlike 30 years ago), public bath houses are still popular even in residential areas of big Japanese cities. Onsen and sentō are gender-separated places of tranquility where people enjoy a relaxing hot bath (usually around 40°C) after a hard day of work or an intense workout. Onsen towns in the middle of nowhere are popular vacation destinations for the Japanese domestic tourism and a must see / do for many foreign visitors.
Waterparks with slides and wave pools on the other hand are not nearly as popular in Japan as they are in the States or Europe. Most of the time they are considered one amongst many attractions of amusement parks (like at Nara Dreamland) – and indoor waterparks are even more rare.
From what I was able to find out the Tokushima Countryside Healthspa (お水荘ヘルスピア), an indoor water park with some hotel rooms, was opened in 1975 (under a different name) to complement a countryside farm, attracting visitors with millions of flowers. It was renovated and expanded in 1994 to be re-opened under its current name – making dance shows and karaoke new selling points. Due to its remote location (35 minutes by bus from the next train station) and the economic crisis the number of guests decreased while the debt piled up to 800 million Yen – and lowering the entry fee from reasonable 1700 Yen per day (10 a.m. to 10 p.m.) with special promotions (Ladies Day on Thursdays for 850 Yen and Friends Day on Fridays for 1000 Yen) didn’t help either – at the end they reportedly sold tickets for as low as 100 Yen… So in 2002, after 27 years, the lights went out at Tokushima Countryside Healthspa.
I have to admit: I love indoor waterparks. It’s one of the few leisure activities I really miss living in Japan. Back home in Germany you can find quite a few abandoned public swimming pools, indoor and outdoor, but no abandoned waterparks. So I enjoyed every minute of the two hours I spent there. The hotel part was quite vandalized and rather boring, so I left it rather quickly to go over to the swimming pools and the waterslide. On the way I passed a kitchen and some functional rooms. In two of them quite a few goods and training equipment were lined up, here and there I found price tags scattered all over the place – it seems like the owner tried to sell as much as possible before closing for good. The now empty main pool looked pretty much like a rather local indoor water park in Germany and I loved how red and green leafed plants were growing inside; if there ever was a zombie attack you know where to go to if the Shime Coal Mine is already occupied – if you know what I mean…
The outside waterslide at the bold cliff looked absolutely amazing, the weather just contributing to the atmosphere, so please have a look at the videos, too. Next to the waterslide was a staircase leading down to a pool, now filled with moldy brackish water, two dead greenish doves lying at the pool edge. Again, amazing atmosphere – kinda spooky, but not dangerous at all; neither physically nor in the form of security or other “guests” thanks to the remote location.
Like pretty much all of the previous and upcoming locations of my Haikyo Road Trip To Shikoku the Tokushima Countryside Healthspa was a unique, relaxed and fascinating place to explore. Shikoku, an urbex heaven!