Japan from the inside out

Hydrogen and arsenic

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, September 1, 2012


IF you want to take the waters in Japan — and most here people do — the best place might be the Kiku-no-Yu hot springs in Kaga, Ishikawa.

That’s the conclusion of Hirose Yukio, professor emeritus at Kanazawa University and an Ig Nobel laureate in 2003. Prof. Hirose, whose field is natural science, is a spa lover. His scientific curiosity was engaged to discover the reason that hot springs visits were so refreshing. He thought measuring the hydrogen content of the waters would produce the answer. Hydrogen removes active oxygen from the body, and active oxygen accelerates aging and contributes to obesity. It would also, say the scientists, contribute to the relief of stress and fatigue.

Prof. Hirose found that the Kiku-no-Yu waters are loaded with hydrogen. The professor visited many spas to measure their hydrogen content — which sounds like a great gig to me — and during a visit to Kiku-no-Yu #2 in May, obtained a reading of 400 parts per billion of hydrogen per liter. Most spa water doesn’t reach 100 ppb. He went back to the main onsen in August and got a reading of 604 ppb. He thinks that might be the highest of any spa in Japan.

That must mean the Kiku-no-Yu waters are H2O+.

Prof. Hirose received the Ig Nobel for his research into the reason pigeons and crows avoided crapping on the bronze statue of Yamato Takeru-no-Mikoto in Kenroku Park, also in Ishikawa. This is the one:

Yamato Takeru, who might have been legendary, was the son of the Emperor Keiko, the twelfth Emperor of Japan and probably a legend himself. If he lived, it was in the first and second centuries. The prince is said to have pacified the barbarian tribes in the north of Japan, and I don’t know if they were legendary or not.

The burning question was why the birds left the prince clean and pure but crapped all over the other statues in the park (which is a lovely place, judging from its website.)

It turned out the birds didn’t care for the trace amount of arsenic in the alloys used to cast that statue.

The professor has also published a book on the proper brewing and tasting of espresso.

And while we’re on the subject of unique Japanese guys, try this Youtube of well-known comedian Shimura Ken playing shamisen while even better-known comedian, actor, and international award-winning film director Kitano (Beat) Takeshi tap dances. Yes, really.

The person who uploaded the video doesn’t want it to be embedded, but you can see it here — and you should!

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