Japan from the inside out

Steam cleaning

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, September 10, 2011

TAKING the waters at a hot spring is good for what ails you. Among the benefits are invigorated blood circulation, increased metabolism, and normalized endocrine function. With natural hot springs throughout the archipelago, the Japanese have known about and availed themselves of these properties for more than a millennium.

Now the Floricultural Group in the Agricultural Research Division of Oita Prefecture’s Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries Research Center in Beppu, the country’s unofficial spa capital, have discovered that hot springs are good for flora as well as fauna. Specifically, they’ve developed a way to use the steam from hot springs to disinfect the soil and the materials used for growing beds.

Here’s how the system works. They start with a 1.6-square-meter steam vat surrounded by a 60 centimeter-high block wall. The hot spring steam is brought up from underneath, and the entire apparatus is covered with a sheet during the sterilization period. At 120º C, it takes 30 minutes to give the treatment to pots or seedbeds and two or three hours to soil.

The research center says this method has several advantages to the chemical method currently used. It sterilizes both the surface and the interior. The materials can be used as soon as they cool, whereas the use of chemicals requires aeration after the process to release any trapped gases. In addition to its effectiveness, it’s environmentally friendly and labor efficient. The use of the system has gradually been growing in the prefecture, and 50 farmers have adopted it in the past year. Limiting its diffusion, however, is the cost of the devices used to create the steam and the higher fuel costs.

Who knows — if they ever get those problems ironed out, it might result in the emergence of an agri-spa industry in Oita!

Speaking of interesting devices, those inspired goofballs at Maywa Denki have created another new musical instrument. Polyrhythmic!

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