If you’re visiting Japan – or living here – there’s one thing that you absolutely must indulge in. Onsen. Scrubbing up at the onsen (Japanese public spa) is a one of a kind experience. Once you get over the nakedness of others and embrace your own nudity, ‘taking a bath’ will hold a new meaning. The famous places that immediately spring to mind (at least for me) are Hakodate, Arima, and Kusatsu. If there’s a chance to go to these places- do it! You won’t regret it. However, if your search sphere is limited to the Tokyo area- your selection also decreases. And while any local spa will, undoubtedly, get you cleaned and pink-cheeked, there are a few that will give you the full on experience of mineral springs like those in the more renown (but far) locations.
Fortunately- there is another option. If you live in Kanagawa, or anywhere on the Den-en-toshi line, there’s a hidden gem on one of the stops. In Miyamaedaira (a thirty minute train ride from Shibuya) hides an onsen that, though not the biggest, offers one of the best experiences. Yukemuri No Sato （湯けむりの里） has been my favorite soaking spot for the past three years or so. Here are some reasons why:
The spring baths are, of course, the main attraction here (I will get into this later). However, the rock spas(岩盤浴— gannbann’yoku), the restaurant and the resting room are all worth visiting.
The Rock Spas
The rock spas, originating in Thailand, are open to both men and women at the same time. The customers are given suitable clothing to wear in these rooms. There are six rooms and all offer different experiences. Most rooms are hot- with varying degrees of heat, smells and levels of humidity. There is one ‘cold’ room as well-for individuals who prefer sitting in a cool environment. Each room is lightly decorated to compliment the atmosphere.
Follow these signs (gannbann’yoku) to find the rock spas.
The restaurant offers a seasonal menu. Although it’s health oriented, with plenty of salads, there are also heartier meals like curries, noodle soups and steak. Personally, I’d recommend the simple (and cheap!) “Yaki onigiri” (fried rice balls). You get two onigiris (one with butter and another with soy sauce flavor), a miso soup, some tofu and a bit of marinated veggies. All for only ¥500. There is also a wide choice of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. The entrance to the restaurant is open till 10 PM.
The resting room is located on the same floor as the entrance to the men’s bath. It is furnished with comfy reclining couches that have small TV sets attached to them. There are blankets available if you’re feeling chilly. Additionally, for the ladies, there’s a “women only” resting section. On crowded days it can be a little tricky to find a spot but on most evenings it isn’t a problem. All of this is, of course, no additional cost for the customer.
There are various kinds of “massage chairs” available too!
The whole spa is open from 10 AM to midnight on weekdays and from 9 AM to midnight on weekends. The prices vary depending on what course you choose.
Free parking is available for the first three hours of your stay. After the three hours you have to pay (30 mins – ¥200).
Weekdays: Adults-¥1240 Kids-¥720
Weekends: Adults-¥1500 Kids-¥820
Plus Rock Spa: +¥800
Discounted Price: After 21:00, entry fee is ¥900
* Only children in elementary school-age will be admitted.
**Massages, beverage or food are each sold separately.
*** Two towels and a comfortable set of jinbei (Japanese pajamas) are included.
**** Unfortunately, tattoos are prohibited in these establishments.
The water is a slightly salty as it’s near the sea (black onsen water!). Natural spring water is what the onsen should be all about but unfortunately, not all spas can afford this and many local bathhouses use tap water of lower quality. So for me, the mineral infused water is a big plus.
Natural hot spring bath. Photo by bobthemagicdragon on Flickr
There are massaging bubble baths, a Finnish style sauna, and a big indoor cold-water tub. Outside, your will find all water is a dark wine colour. Besides the typical baths there are, a few, more original options. The most popular one is a bath with mineral sparkles (not a Jacuzzi). If you sit in the water still for a few moments, a layer of fizz will form around you and moving your limbs will feel like you’re sitting in champaign. There is also a deep tub. It goes up to the chest level (standing up) and is favored by those who like to do some light stretching in hot water. Another interesting addition to the outdoor onsen are the stone beds. When lying on these, one portion of your body is submerged in hot water and the other part is exposed to the air. It’s a unique sensation. I recommend these for those who have a tendency to overheat in hot baths.
Last, but no least, is the salt sauna. This facility, unfortunately, is only available to women (which is a shame because it’s my favorite). Here, you can scrub up with natural sea salt and sit in a vapor filled room. The salt not only helps to take off the dead skin but also disinfects and wipes out impurities. However, if you have any open sores, please avoid applying salt to that area, as it will burn.
All in all, I’d recommend this spa to anyone who’s visiting Japan. It’s not just beautiful but has a comfortable atmosphere and is great for all spa-goers to enjoy a soak.
Hope you’ll enjoy your time there.
Address: 〒216-0006 Kanagawa-ken, Kawasaki-shi, Miyamae-ku, Miyamaedaira, 2 Chome−2−13−3