JAPAN: Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture (Spa Resort Hawaiians/ Joban Hawaiian Center)

Joban is one of thirteen zones within Iwaki City located in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan. The area was renowned for coal mining which began near the foot of the Abukuma mountains in 1883. By 1944, the Joban Mine was the largest mine in Japan and utilized Allied POWs as laborers. As the coal industry declined in the 1960s, the mine’s vice president, Yutaka Nakamura conceived of an idea to open up a resort taking advantage of the area’s hot springs in an effort to generate income from tourism for the city.

On January 15, 1966, the Joban Hawaiian Center was opened becoming Japan’s first theme park. Over the years, the theme park was upgraded and became a full scale resort. Resultantly, the name was changed to Spa Resort Hawaiians (スパリゾートハワイアンズ) in 1990.   Park attendance reached its peak in the early 1970s where attendance exceeded 1.5 million visitors annually.  Today, it still enjoys a steady influx of visitors and is considered among the top ten most popular “theme parks” in Japan.

The Spa Resort Hawaiians is divided into five areas consisting of: The Water Park, The Spring Park, The Spa Garden Pareo, Edo Jowa Yoichi and Vir Port.

The Water Park comprises the main area of the resort where you will find various indoor pools, water slides and the dance stage. A Hawaiian atmosphere is recreated throughout with pineapple plants and other tropical vegetation. The Spring Park is one of two hot spring areas that is fed by spring water from the Yumoto Onsen. Here you will find co-ed lukewarm indoor pools as well as regular, gender separated hot spring baths where swimsuits are not allowed. The Spa Garden Pareo is a water playground with outdoor pools, deckchairs, Jacuzzis and a sauna (please note that this section is closed during the winter months). Edo Jowa Yoichi is a gender separated, large outdoor bath with an Edo period theme. It is said that this is the largest single outdoor bath in Japan. Finally, Vir Port is where guests can partake in Hawaiian dance lessons, enjoy a massage or facial, or take part in water exercises. The resort also has various restaurants and two hotels: Hotel Hawaiians and Monolith Tower.

However, the park’s most popular attraction is its dance troupe known as the Hula Girls. They were the subject of a 2006 film with the same name.  The film was directed by Sang-il Lee and grossed $9.4 million at the box office!

In March of 2011, the resort sustained heavy damage by the East Japan Earthquake and was forced to close. During the closure, the Hula Girls troupe toured Japan performing at earthquake refugee shelters and other venues. The resort reopened on February 8, 2012 with a much larger stage for the Hula Girls show.

Accessing the resort is relatively easy. There are free hourly shuttle buses to/from Yumoto Station. In addition, the resort provides bus service for its staying guests to/from Tokyo (3 hours) and Yokohama (3.5 hours), free of charge. Please note that advance reservations are required for the latter.

Web page:

http://www.hawaiians.co.jp/english/

Location:

50, Warabidaira, Fujiwaramachi,

Joban, Iwaki-shi,

Fukushima, 972-8326, Japan

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