Japan inn operator admits staff did not change hot-spring bathwater

The operator of a century-old ryokan inn in southwestern Japan on Tuesday admitted telling staff not to regularly change its hot-spring bathwater, which led to levels of legionella bacteria as much as 3,700 times over standard limits.

"Management of the bathwater became inadequate from December 2019 and even more careless with the sharp drop in customers due to the coronavirus pandemic," Makoto Yamada, head of the operator of the Daimaru Besso inn in Chikushino, Fukuoka Prefecture, told a press conference in apologizing for the incident.

The Fukuoka prefectural government has found that the inn only changed the bathwater twice yearly. A local ordinance says hot-spring bathwater should be changed at least once a week.

"It was not about cutting costs, but to save time and effort," said Yamada, who added he will resign when the problem is settled.

Yamada also admitted to instructing staff to falsify bathwater chlorination records submitted to a public health office even though he knew doing so was against the law.

An inspection in November by the prefectural government found bacteria levels as much as 3,700 times the acceptable limits.

The inn apologized on its website, saying it resumed offering its main common bath at the end of December with proper hygiene standards.

The inn was founded in 1865 and its past guests include Emperor Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa.

© Kyodo News