Ex-president of Japanese inn that changed bathwater twice a year found dead in suspected suicide

A farewell note was discovered nearby.

Yen Zhi Yi | March 13, 2023, 01:40 PM

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The former president of a 158-year-old Japanese inn in Fukuoka Prefecture was found dead on Sunday morning (Mar. 12), the Japan Times reported.

Makoto Yamada, 70, was discovered by a passerby on a mountain road in Chikushino around 7am.

His death was subsequently reported to the police.

He was believed to have committed suicide as there was a note of farewell found in a car neaby.

According to prefectural police cited by Kyodo News, the farewell note wrote “ I am very sorry. I feel morally responsible for everything. Please take care of the rest.”

Prior to his death, Yamada was questioned for approximately six hours on Mar. 10 and he was told to go to the police station the next day.

An official of the prefectural police expressed his sincere condolences and said that the police did not believe there were issues with their handling of the case, according to the Japan Times.

Bathwater issue

The traditional Japanese inn, named Daimaru Besso, was found to have only changed its hot springs’ bathwater twice a year, CNN reported.

Based on local regulations, bathwater in hot springs is supposed to be changed every week.

An inspection in November 2022 had detected legionella bacteria 3,700 times the permissible limit in the bathwater, Kyodo News reported.

Legionella bacteria is usually found in hot tubs, decorative fountains as well as shower heads and faucets.

It can cause Legionnaires' disease, which is a serious type of pneumonia, according to CNN.

The discovery prompted the prefectural government to file a police complaint on Mar. 8 on suspicion that the inn had violated the Public Bath Houses Act, Kyodo News reported.

A search was conducted by the police on Mar. 10 as the inn was suspected of fraudulently reporting to the prefectural government that it had properly changed its hot springs' bathwater.

Admitted to misconduct & resigned

Yamada had publicly admitted to false reporting in a press conference on Feb. 28 and was quoted as saying that he told the inn’s staff that it was alright to not change the bathwater as “fewer people were using it”, according to Kyodo News.

He revealed that he had told staff to submit false bathwater chlorination records to the public health office even though he was aware that doing so was against the law.

Yamada also said during the press conference that the inn's bathwater was not chlorinated because he and his staff "selfishly disliked the smell of chlorine," CNN reported.

He then quit as the inn’s operating head on Mar. 2 in order to take responsibility for his actions.

According to Daimaru Besso’s website, it was founded in 1865 and had hosted guests such as Emperor Hirohito and other government dignitaries.


Top image via Daimaru Besso & Getty Images/The Asahi Shimbun