In movies, there’s never anything good hidden in the earth under a structure. It’s all Native American burial grounds, Egyptian mummies, and other assorted other corpses of non-specific ethnicities.
In real life, though, there are all sorts of desirable things waiting beneath the surface, such as oil and gold. An excavation crew in Kobe was looking for something just as good as those two valuable commodities, though: a hot spring, and they found one right in the heart of the city.
While there is a Kobe Station, Kobe’s real commercial and entertainment center radiates from Sannomiya Station, two stops over. A number of rail and subway lines converge in the neighborhood, and to entice passengers to use the ones it operates, JR West is currently in the process of renovating Sannomiya Station.
▼ Sannomiya Station
Part of the plan, unveiled in 2013 involves replacing the attached Sannomiya Terminal Building, presumably with a newer, shinier shopping/dining/hotel complex of the sort often situated at major rail hubs in Japan. But even if you’re not hungry, in the mood to buy anything, or in need of a place to sleep, it looks like there’ll be one more reason to stop by JR West’s Sannomiya facilities when they’re finished: a natural onsen, or hot spring.
When the renovation project was announced, JR West also obtained the necessary legal permits to develop a hot spring on the site. Earlier this month, after digging to a depth of roughly 1,000 meters (3,281 feet), the excavation team discovered water springing from the bedrock under a plaza on the south side of the station grounds. A sample of the water was taken, and an analysis of its components and temperature at the source has deemed it to be of proper quality for an onsen.
Even after reaching this project milestone, JR West has stated that while it hopes the hot spring will play a role in vitalizing the neighborhood, no decision has been made about how specifically to employ the waters. The most likely candidate is a paid hot spring bathing facility, but a hotel trumpeting its onsen amenities, or perhaps a free outdoor public footbath, are also options which have precedent in Japan.
JR West plans to release more details on the hot spring development in September, following meetings with local residents and shopkeepers. The company’s Sannomiya Station renovations are scheduled to be completed sometime in 2017.