Kurokawa Spa is a 90-minute drive from Kumamoto Airport in western Japan. The resort is tucked away in the mountains, but it has become one of the most popular in the country recently, about 300,000 people stay there overnight each year, and 900,000 come on day trips to soak in the waters. The boom is due to the efforts of one man, Goto Tetsuya, the owner of a ryokan (Japanese inn) called Shinmei-kan.
About 50 years ago, Goto began digging into a mountain, in a rocky place behind his ryokan. He used just one drill, keeping at it for a total of about 10 years. Eventually he had made a cave with a hot spring bath. His spa, so different from others, attracted plenty of customers and this gave new life to his run-down inn. Goto became the leader of a group of local people hoping to change their community into a hot spring resort. They began about 20 years ago, and the spa has grown into a huge success over the last few years. Each ryokan has a unique outdoor hot pool. The resort looks like an old rustic town, featuring lanes with cobblestones and buildings with earthen walls.
Goto says, "You can't develop a good hot spring resort with just one ryokan. We started a coupon system that lets people drop in at one ryokan after another, to enjoy the different outdoor pools. And by combining our resources, we could plant many trees in the town."
Goto had plenty of ideas to develop the potential of Kurokawa Spa. He is well known there, and goes by the nickname, "Therapy Place Charisma."
People promoting different types of ventures visit Goto Tetsuya to ask for business advice.