Mercy for the modest at spa park near Japan's Mt. Fuji
Stars and Stripes
If a bathing suit vs. a birthday suit is what stands between you and an onsen, look no further.
Yunessun, a natural hot-spring water park in the touristy Hakone park area near Mt. Fuji, is quintessential Japan: traditional hot-spring soaking married with strobe lights, water slides, pulsating music and hot baths with many themes.
And bathing suits are allowed.
Think karaoke meets onsen. Or at least parts of it. The centerpiece of the main bathing area is a huge tiled pool and three huge video screens that routinely show bucolic European scenes. Every so often bubbles — Lawrence Welk style — emanate from behind the screens. Strobe lights pulse to the beat, while steam or fog or a reasonable facsimile seeps out of the screens about every hour.
But that’s just the start. Behind the video screens are the hamam, an imitation Turkish bath; a heated slab of marble just perfect for two bodies to lie upon; water that falls from the ceiling for a jet-stream neck massage; large baths; smaller baths; milky baths, and an American-style food court that overlooks the whole scene.
Outside is a water slide that moves small bodies so fast they seem to be in danger of propelling into the air. Parents can sit comfortably in a hot-tub size jacuzzi strategically located at the end of the water slide, as their progeny whip past.
And while the air temperature may be in the brisk 50s, the water is perfect natural hot-spring fare.
Yunessun also offers a traditional no-bathing suit onsen segregated by gender. Lovely rock pools surrounded by foliage and synthetic bamboo fences allow bathing alfresco.
MWR runs bus trips to the water park from Yokosuka and Atsugi. You need bring nothing. Bathing suits are rented; towels and cover-ups are part of the deal.
Yunessun operates “cashless:” You wear a watch-like device that is read Star Trek style when you hold it up to your locker in the changing room, to the soda machine, or anyplace else that requires a monetary transaction. No wondering what to do with your wallet as you soak in the therapeutic waters.
If you go ...
Yunessun is open daily 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission for both the water park and the bathing area is 4,000 yen (about $32) for adults, 2,000 yen for children; for the park only, 3,500 yen for adults; 1,700 yen for children; for the bathing area only, 1,800 yen for adults; 900 for children. Phone: (0465)-2-4126
For more information, see Yunessun’s Web site at www.yunessun.com/lang/en/english.html