I’m kicking myself now for not trying out a Tokyo onsen sooner. I had gone to one around two years ago at a hotel in Miyazaki and was just not impressed. I went with my host family, and it felt like nothing more than an expensive bath where old ladies stare at you because they’ve never seen a white person naked before. My mistake was assuming that all onsens would be that, well, lame.
This onsen was recently remodeled and has a very clean, new feeling to it. While it certainly attracts a lot of foreigners, the majority of the patrons are Japanese. The entrance fee was cheaper because it’s summer now (about ￥2000) and the food/souvenirs/massages weren’t that bad either! They give you a key bracelet with a barcode that shop workers will scan when you purchase something extra. They tally it all up when you leave the onsen so you can walk around and not have to worry about storing your wallet in your yukata (but you can still easily carry your digital camera, etc in the sleeves if you want).
I ate sushi, oden, two iced oolong teas and a giant shaved ice and bought two bath salt packets for omiyage and my total ended up being just short of ￥3000. The food was very good too, not typical tourist trap food. That made my total about ￥5000, which is not bad considering it was an all-day affair! I believe you’d pay considerably more on a trip to Tokyo Disney Land.
There are multiple natural hot spring pools (including outdoor ones) and saunas. The main baths/saunas and the outdoor footbath are free. For other things like the sand bath and massages you’ll have to pay extra. If you’re so inclined, they also have a bath where tiny fish eat the dead skin cells off your feet. As much as I like trying out “quirky Japan” things, it was one of the more expensive services so I passed.
The nice thing about Tokyo is that they’re much more used to foreigners so there’s no awkward staring (at least to my knowledge) when you’re bathing. Soap and shampoo is included as are brushes, hair serums and blow dryers afterwards. I don’t know about the men’s side however, because this is not a mixed-gender onsen. (more…)