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Free Hot Springs Heal Downpour-Hit Residents of Kumamoto

Free Hot Springs Heal Downpour-Hit Residents of Kumamoto

   Hitoyoshi, Kumamoto Pref., July 14 (Jiji Press)--Some public bathhouse operators and inns in the deluge-hit city of Hitoyoshi in Kumamoto Prefecture are making their hot spring baths available for free to local residents affected by the disaster, helping them recover from fatigue from living in shelters and feel refreshed.
   Free hot springs are also giving comfort to volunteers who help afflicted people in the southwestern Japan city, where many houses and other buildings were flooded due to the overflowing of the Kuma River from torrential rains earlier this month although some have voiced concerns over the possibility of people catching the new coronavirus at crowded baths.
   The Sagarahanganjoji Onsen bathhouse has kept operating after the heavy rains caused severe damage to the city on July 4. Even before the Kumamoto prefectural government started handing out free vouchers to affected residents, it decided to welcome them for free. More than 100 people now come to take a bath there every day.
   "I just thought I have to do something. Some guests were so delighted that they cried," Taeko Shinbori, the 74-year-old owner of the bathhouse, said. Shinbori is also working as a volunteer with the high school students she is taking care of as boarders.
   "No matter how much work we do, there is no end in sight. It's tough," Asuka Ogata, a 17-year-old third-grader at Kuma Technical High School in Hitoyoshi, said after finishing the day's work as a volunteer, which included removing mud. "But taking a bath here helps me recover from fatigue and feel I can keep going," Ogata said.

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