You should try a Japanese hot spring if you visit Japan. It’s a great way to take part in a cultural activity that is an ‘only in Japan’ experience. Japanese hot springs are also a great way to unwind after a long day and are generally relaxing. If you can’t visit one of the many popular hot spots outside the major cities, like Hakone or Beppu, I think the Ōedo-Onsen Monogatari is right up your alley.
Ōedo-Onsen Monogatari is located within Odaiba, the manmade island with lots of attractions such as the TeamLab Borderless Exhibition, Diver City with the massive Gundam robot and Fuji TV, and sits on the west side of the Telecom Center Station. You can reach it by taking the train to the station and then hopping onto one of the free shuttle buses, which takes you to straight to the onsen.
When you decide to enter, you will be given a yakuta to change into and directed into either the male or female change rooms. You will be given a bracelet with a key and number to your locker. If you are not familiar with Japanese hot springs or onsens, you should know that you will be going nude in the water. You are not allowed to wear anything in the water, though you can wear your towel around your waist when you are out of the water. Here, the onsens are separated for men and women – so there is no mixed baths.
Before you visit, be mindful of the following:
- people with tattoos are not permitted to enter the onsen
- you can’t bring your own food or drinks
- you must not be intoxicated
When you are not in the onsen, there is an Edo-themed area with shops, attractions (with prizes and souvenirs) and restaurants. If you buy anything, you don’t need to worry. You just quote your number and they will add the cost to your tab at the end of the visit. This area also serves as a nice area for chats or photos.
It may be confronting in the onsen itself with people in their birthday suits, but do not fret. You are not likely to meet any of these people again and you are just going to draw attraction if you don’t go nude. Just go with it. I was worried originally, but by the end I didn’t care.
The onsen’s water is generally really hot. Before you dip your body into the water, you should properly wash any grime from your body and then afterwards you should gently pour some of the hot water onto the bottom half of your body to acclimatize your body to the water’s temperature. When you are ready, step in carefully without splashing other people. You can put the towel around your waist above your head by folding it up. (For guys, if you are worried about how hot the water is, don’t worry as you can still have children later.)
If you are like most people, you will probably just keep to yourself. I just close my eyes and meditate. It’s relaxing. I found the outdoor onsen nice, because half my body had the wind blowing against it and the other half was warm and cosy. Plus, I could daze into the night sky every now and then.
I noticed that a lot of people took up the massage and skin-scrubbing option in the onsen area. You might find it nice to have your muscle tension eased or have your skin scrubbed and cleaned. I did the skin-scrubbing and I felt like a different person afterwards. (It was an aggressive skin scrub for sure. It felt nice. You are given swim shorts when you take part.) You can add this experience to the tab.
If you want to be clothed, you can join in the Footbath Garden. Here, you aren’t able to submerge your body in the water, but its option if you want your better half to join you.
If you are split up with your better half during this experience, I recommend designating a time to meet, given that phones can’t be used in the onsen. There are clocked all over the place. That way, you can come together in the restaurant area to share a meal before either taking another dip or heading back home.
The opening hours for Ōedo-Onsen Monogatari are from 11:00 AM to 9:00 AM each day (22 hours). The admission fees vary between daytime and nighttime rates and whether you are visiting on a weekday or weekend. As at 13 November 2020, for adults, the daytime rate is 2,768 yen (with tax) or the nighttime rate is 2,218 yen.
You can visit their website here and it is located within Odaiba: