Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Just south of San Francisco is the Gilroy Hot Springs, also known as the Yamato Hot Springs. It's an abandoned hot springs resort of the kind you might find in Japan. Yes, I do mean the abandoned kind you might find in Japan.
Abandoned locations are known in Japanese as haikyo 廃墟. It basically means ruins, but for a lot of people it means a place to explore. For many people, visiting haikyo sites is their hobby, and they take pictures and post them online. Do a search, they're pretty interesting.
I first heard about the Yamato Hot Springs from a friend, who claims there's a big torii (shrine gate) there and everything. Curious, I did a little snooping around online and found out about the place.
It was first established in the late 1800s as a place to "take the waters," as they used to call it. It was a rich person's destination, with the then mayor of San Francisco coming down to party with singers and business tycoons. By the late '30s it had fallen out of favor with the upper crust and was purchased by H. K. Sakata, a local Japanese lettuce grower.
Now known as the Yamato Hot Springs, it became a cultural center for Japanese and Japanese Americans, hence the torii. Although Mr. Sakata was interred in a relocation camp during the war, his business partners kept the springs open, and after the war many displaced Japanese American families used it as a temporary shelter.
The site is now part of a state park and is a State Historic Landmark. It remains closed while it is decided how best to handle the extensive repairs necessary to make it safe again.
Although I'd really like to go, it seems like just hopping the fence would be disrespectful given its history as a sanctuary. However, the Friends of Gilroy Hot Springs, the de facto caretakers of the site, offer guided tours for a small fee. Anyone want to join me on a tour?