Radioactive Hot Spring Leaves Guests Glowing - With Good Health

A century-old radioactive hot rock spring in the town of Miharu, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan has now attracted its youngest visitor, 8-year-old brain cancer patient Nanako Murakami (left, with mother Manami).

Yawaragi no Yu is an onsen, or hot spring inn, located in the mountains of Japan's Fukushima Prefecture.

Its claim to fame are the rejuvenatory waters which bubble out from red-hot volcanic rocks beneath the earth's surface, carrying with them trace amounts of the radioactive element Radium.

At Yawaragi no Yu, in addition to more typical hot water pools and baths, locally sourced pea gravel is raked over hot rocks providing spa visitors with a unique "dry bath" of heat and radiation!

Though radiation, unless administered under medical supervision, is to be avoided if possible, we should remember that we live our lives surrounded by natural radiation (albeit at very low levels) raining down from space and emanating from the natural radioactive elements in the earth's crust and mantle.

Concentrations of Uranium and Radium happen to be above average in the rocks around Yawaragi no Yu, and in the years after the spa opened in 1914 some association was made between the radiation and the reports of improved health relayed back from visitors who stayed at the onsen. Radiation levels are monitored regularly by onsen staff, it should be said, to ensure they fall within government-set safety standards.

Yawaragi no Yu has now made national headlines as it's become known that Nanako Murakami, an 8-year-old girl who has suffered from recurring neuroblastoma (the most common form of childhood brain cancer) nearly her entire life, has been visiting the onsen.

Just the fact that young Nanako is allowed to enjoy Yawaragi no Yu's special "radium rock spa" is noteworthy - although children are welcome at the onsen, the rock spa has always been off limits.

Spa owner (for the past dozen years) Katsuo Kageyama gave special permission for Nanako to visit after meeting with her mother Manami, who reportedly moved his heart by saying, "I'm asking you for my daughter's life."

 Lying on a straw tatami mat over hot volcanic rocks isn't easy and Nanako has slowly worked her way up from 5 minutes to 20 minutes with the help and encouragement of her mother. Smiles Nanako, "I do the hot rock spa to survive." Here's hoping she not only survives, but thrives. (via Mainichi Daily News)