Last weekend, Roomie and I took S out for her birthday for her (and my!) first onsen experience! Coworker C had suggested 東京大江戸温泉物語 (Tokyo Ooedo Onsen Monogatari), as he had taken his family there just a few weeks ago.
I had always avoided going to onsen (Japanese hot springs) for a couple reasons; One- I just never had a big desire to get naked in front of a bunch of other people. Yes, I took baths and went skinny-dipping with my friends as a kid, but that was many many years ago. I just felt like I would be too self-conscious here, being a whitey and all.. I guess I felt like people would be staring at me too much.
Second reason- my tattoo. A lot of places don't allow people with tattoos, this place included. On their website and at the entrance of the onsen as well it states "persons with tattoos are asked to refrain from using the facilities".
Neither issues turned out to be a problem, though!
We took the free shuttle to the onsen from Tokyo Station. (The free shuttle also runs from Shinagawa Station, and while the English site mentions the shuttle bus stops, I was only able to find the time tables on the Japanese website, go figure: here)
After we arrived, we each got a wrist band that had a number, a key, and a barcode attached to it. The number was our locker number, and the key for the locker as well. The barcode was used throughout the facilities to "pay" for things, so you don't really have to carry around a bag/wallet. When you go to purchase food or whatever, they scan the barcode, and then before you leave they add up your total and you pay at the end.
We also got to choose what yukata we wanted, then went on into the locker room to change. I had S and Roomie help me put my icy-hot patch things on my back to cover my tattoo (while standing in a secluded corner!) when we changed into our yukata.
In addition to the hot spring baths, there are lots of little food shops and gift stores, a little stage for performances they have going on throughout the day, massage rooms, a "relaxation room" with reclining chairs and personal TVs attached to each one, and a foot-bath area where you could soak your feet, walk around the pools over various little rock beds for a (rather painful!) foot massage, or even pay for some "fish therapy", where you stick your feet into a pool of little fish that eat the dead skin and stuff off your feet!
We got some lunch first, then finally braved the bath. S and I were pretty self-conscious at first, but after a while in the baths and seeing all the other naked people walking around (who were not staring or making a big deal of the foreigners, yay!) we were fine.
Oh, and the patches covering my tattoo ended up being a little see-through when they got wet, so I just kept my little towel draped over my back while in the bath, and it was fine. No one said anything or tried to kick me out.
There were baths with different temperatures- the main ones being about 41°C- and even some outdoor baths which we tried too, and the steam room, but we stayed most of the time in the 38° bath because the others got too hot after a while.
After our bath we relaxed in a massage chair. I wanted a real massage- just a short shoulder/back massage- but all the options were too expensive, so massage chair it was! Then we got some desserts, tried the foot bath area, then decided it was time to go. We were there for a little over 5 hours- it was nice and relaxing and we felt pretty pampered and refreshed afterward. Definitely worth a visit!
|Our tradition- take a picture at any face-hole picture thing we come across!|
|Inside the main area- everyone in their yukata|
|Blurry food pic, sorry! Tempura rice bowl, miso soup, and Japanese pickles|
|Matcha ice cream with anko and shiratama (green tea ice cream with sweet beans and sticky rice dumplings)|
|The guy that took this picture for us kept telling us we were "kawaii!" (cute)|
|The sakura were blooming outside in the foot-bath area|