lifestyle

For many Japanese cancer patients, a trip to Tamagawa Onsen offers one final hope

29 Comments
By Jesse Veverka

Cancer. After heart disease, it’s the leading cause of death in Japan—and most other industrialized countries. By 2030, cancer is expected to surpass infectious diseases as a killer in many developing nations as well. Indeed, a growing body of evidence suggests that the very chemicals, electromagnetic radiation and industrially produced foods that form the foundation of economic development also act as catalysts for the disease.

While the medical industry has made significant strides in detecting, treating and curing cancer, the inability of scientists to vanquish the disease is leading growing numbers of patients to seek out alternative treatments. Tamagawa Onsen in Akita Prefecture offers the hope of one such remedy to Japan’s large population of oncology patients.

Situated in the snowy mountains of Akita Prefecture in northern Honshu, the hot spring has served as a medical retreat for a variety of maladies since pre-Meiji times. The area’s surreal vistas are now protected as a national park—one in which 9,000 liters of near-boiling water come gushing out of the ground every minute. Tamagawa Onsen’s special hokutolite bedrock, with naturally occurring radium, is thought to be particularly effective against cancer.

The spa attracts hopeful visitors from all over Japan, most of whom are cancer patients undergoing Western medical treatment as well. They stay for two to three weeks in ryokan-style accommodations, or up to two months in dorm-style rooms with access to a communal kitchen. Many spend their time lying on slabs of hokutolite, which are believed to help sweat out heavy metals, toxins and carcinogens while allowing patients to bask in the naturally occurring warmth that melts snow even in the middle of winter. Dinner includes items unavailable in a hospital setting—including alcohol.

Although most visitors at Tamagawa Onsen are cancer patients, the springs are also said to be effective against other maladies, including nervous system disorders, high blood pressure and circulatory diseases. The ryokan-style accommodations are available year-round (except April 1-10), and dorm-style housing is open from April 20-Nov 23.

Getting there

Take the Komachi shinkansen from Tokyo station to Tazawako station in Akita (3 hours, 8,720 yen), then the bus for Tamagawa Onsen. Book ahead, as waiting lists can be several months long.

This story originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (www.metropolis.co.jp).

© Japan Today

©2017 GPlusMedia Inc.


29 Comments
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lying on slabs of hokutolite, which are believed to help sweat out heavy metals, toxins and carcinogens and a lifetime of boozing, smoking, gambling, bentos and hitting the soap land will all drain away until the big one.

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Its about time they find a cure for cancer, too many many people are dying, have died cause of this disease :(

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Tamagawa Onsen is truly amazing. You feel like being in a different world. I would recommend anyone to go there, just not on weekends as the parking space is a bit limited.

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Radium is radioactive. It causes cancer.

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Dinner includes items unavailable in a hospital setting—including alcohol.

Don't they feel ashamed to print this?? Alcohol? So I guess it is true what they say that Japanese's blood is half alcohol reason why they can drink just about everyday and still live long lives. Mmmm makes you wonder. Still, My MIL died of breast cancer and her last days were horrible due to the fact that they are so backwards and outdated when it comes to Cancer Chemo-treatment in this country, all they could do for her what giving her morphine. Just Morphine? Ever heard of marihuana prescriptions for pain in terminal ill patients in the United States? That medicine plant is banned in here, so..I feel for the Cancer patients. How terrible to be sick and not have many options to relieve your pain. No wonder why so many fly overseas seeking for better treatment.

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Just go and live in Okinawa away from the nuclear power stations and pollution-simple!

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I wouldn't exactly trust most doctors in Japan to even diagnose cancer at an early stage. The doctors I've been to here seem to want to be done with you in 10 minutes, and just give out pills for everything.

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Does anybody know the main mineral contents in Tamagawa Onsen waters?

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thepro, as a cancer survivor I have to tell you that I got really good treatment here and the doctors really took a lot of time with me and listened to me.

imofo, here is the mineral content as per their site

chloride salts 31.0% simple thermal 23.5% sulfur 12.9% monohydrogenocarbonate 10.0% sulfate salts 7.7% radioactive 6.3% other 4.8% iron 2.2% carbon dioxide 0.8% simple acid 0.8% aluminium 0.1%

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Having had a wife and other family members that died from cancer, got to say most modern cancer meds are a "Horse cure" for the body.

In short they work but are hell on the patient and the patients body and moral being. Said that alternate meds, kampo, etc while they won't cure the cancer can help greatly with coping and side-effects of modern medicine.

Most cancer patients don't truly feel sick till they are diagnosed or till the chemo, etc kicks in.

My Wife worked till close to before she needed the final Hospital stay, at that time the cancer had penetrated her internal organs once it hit the brain it started affecting her speech, etc.

Way too many people are scared of cancer but many like my mother survive and live your average life for decades.

Also modern meds and treatments are getting better every year.

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Zenny11, sorry to hear about your loved ones taken away by this disease.

I wonder if people without cancer or illness can also visit the onsen. Possibly for preventive and non-treatment reasons? Though it seems to cater more to patients.

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What I tried to say each cancer case is different and depends on when it is diagnosed, how it spreads, is treated, etc.

There are no rules to cancer and the treatment, some treatments work for some cases and won't work for others. Cancer will also hit a perfect healthy person like Lance Armstrong, etc or anyone else granted poor life-style,diet, etc increases the chance of it hitting you.

Said that todays survival rate is way better than 20 or 30yrs ago(My mom got diagnosed 24+yrs ago and is still going strong, my wife survived for 5yrs mostly being healthy).

Onsen like the one above CAN help ease many of the symptoms as can an adjustment in diet, etc.

Like many older people I recall the movie "Love Story"(fav of mine).

P.S.: Been confirmed that Beet Root Juice can ease effects from radiation therapy.

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genjuro.

I am sure anyone can visit that Onsen. Not sure if it will prevent anything though but might ease some symptoms for sufferers.

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genjuro.

Thanks for your kind thoughts, but we gain loved ones and we lose them.

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Many spend their time lying on slabs of hokutolite, which are believed to help sweat out heavy metals, toxins and carcinogens

Believed by whom? Is there one shred of scientific support for these claims, or are they a very grubby way of squeezing money out of desperate people during their final, clutching-at-straws days?

The fact that alcohol - not the most well-known inhibitor of cancer - is served at this place should be enough to have these claims dismissed as quackery at best.

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Forgot.

My wife gave me a great son he is in 5th grade now and a pleasure. So she lives on.

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genjuro, You can go there. I went there last year.

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My wife is a cancer survivor, she went to the doc for a sore stomach, he insisted & did a fibre scope inspection, took a sample, recommended a great Uni Hospital(Nihon Idai, also a great location tons of room) for follow up. Long story short within 10days she had her stomach & some or bits removed, was a wild ride but the docs did right.

The recovery took a long time & it still affects sleep, rest needed before doing things but in short they saved her life.

That said for people who are dieing of cancer there arent many(any) affordable options for dieing in a nice environment. Wifes friend is in this position now, some hospice in Nagano they looked into was Y50,000 a day!

That & better(cost effective) options for the elderly/cancer patients are non-existant as far as I have seen, truly awful situation

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GW.

Depends try to get her transferred to the nearest NCC Hospital. My Wife was treated at the local(Tsukiji) one and for her final stay they tried to transfer her to a more local Hospice(at hat time there was nothing they could for her anymore). She died on the day the transfer was finalised.

Either way 50.000 a day sounds way too much.

But agree on average the docs here are good, had a prob with local Red Cross hospital as they took their time for test, etc. But they are more geared for emergencies but she got transferred to the NCC the same day(she was a Stage 3C Breast Cancer at that time). NCC redid all her tests within 2 days.

On the same token they had me admitted soon (CT, etc) after I got there with ambulance and spend 6-weeks there. Doc reckoned I was 6 days away from croaking.

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to avoid cancer stop drinking alchole and eat pork , if u don't believe check the far effects of both

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To give you an idea neither me nor my wife EVER paid 50.000yen a day for a Hospital stay.

Even with a 24/7 trip(was not allowed to eat or drink for 4.5 weeks + meds), etc I barely broke the 10.000 a day barrier. Granted might have broke it on days I had CT scans & X-rays, etc. But those are NOT rates for a terminal patient.

So the 50.000 a day sounds way ........

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Having a bath cures cancer. Quack! Quack!

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zenny11,

Just to clarify, regarding my wife, her hospital stay was great, cost wasnt an issue, it went well, our extra insurance covered most stuff.

I was refering to her friend whose days now are sadly numbered, she doesnt want to stay in a tiny room in a Tokyo hospital & wont be able to stay at home so they looked into hospices & the costs were too high, so like so many looks like her last days will be in a Tokyo hospital, she is home now but likely wont be able to stay there much longer

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The rocks of Tamagawa Onsen contain radon. Radon is supposed to mitigate arthritis. The practice though is controversial because of the "well-documented ill effects of high-dose radiation on the body." Radon has been produced commercially for use in radiation therapy. Normal cells and cancer cells will be injured and killed by the radiation.

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to avoid cancer stop drinking alchole and eat pork , if u don't believe check the far effects of both

nonsense, my wife never drank & she got it, I do & havent so far.

Of course excess isnt good, but these avoid at all cost line of thinking is just silly, common sense is yr friend

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GW.

No probs and bad feelings just, IME, hospices aren't all that pricey. We had to try a few so I got a few prices in the west of Tokyo.

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Indeed, a growing body of evidence suggests that the very chemicals, electromagnetic radiation and industrially produced foods that form the foundation of economic development also act as catalysts for the disease.


The above says it all....

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I am posting nothing but praise for this onsen, and the system is blocking my comment by saying it contains potentially offensive content. Well, if praise for the onsen is potentially offensive, I don't know what else to say.

Moderator: The spam filter blocks URLs and words like "shipping," for example.

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I'm with Ivan again.

Isn't there a law against dubious medical claims?

Although most visitors at Tamagawa Onsen are cancer patients, the springs are also said to be effective against other maladies, including nervous system disorders, high blood pressure and circulatory diseases.

The claim of effectiveness against circulatory diseases and neuralgia is plausible, but it doesn't address the relative effectiveness of a hot bath at home.

There is one school of thought that says that low-level radioactivity stimulates the immune system, since that system addresses damage that occurs at the celleluar level, such as damage to DNA. I don't know how much empirical support this has gotten.

Without rigorous testing of effectiveness by a neutral party, hot spring water is Japanese snake oil.

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