New onsen recreates another era
October 30, 2003
As Tokyo celebrates the 400th anniversary of the Edo shogunate this year, Oedo-Onsen Monogatari opened in March, offering onsens in an atmosphere reminiscent of old Tokyo streets and towns.
The onsen has attracted more than 800,000 visitors since opening and has aroused the interest of the Japanese public as an onsen for both the old and young.
Oedo-Onsen Monogatari, which literally translates to “great Edo hot springs tale,” takes visitors back to the 1600s. Visitors can choose from 19 different types of yukata, or informal cotton kimono for the summer, and transform into residents of Edo.
The naked bath area is divided between men and women. The women’s bath offers five types of onsen; the men’s offers four.
Oedo-Onsen Monogatari only offers one natural hot spring. There also are saunas and an open-air onsen. The women’s open-air onsen offers individual wooden bathtubs, which can occupy one to two people. Saunas are also available.
The outside footbath is similar to a trail where visitors can walk along or sit down. It is a coed bath where you bathe with your yukata on. The footbath is calf deep and paved with stones to stimulate your foot’s pressure points. Sand baths and rock baths are available at this area for an extra fee.
The onsen offers facials, beauty treatments, scrubbings and foot and body massages for an extra cost. Reservations are needed for these services. They can be made at each reservation desk outside the massage areas.
The onsen also offers a variety of Japanese food and souvenirs. Hirokouji Street, which recalls the streets of ancient downtown Edo, offers Japanese style izakaya pubs and Japanese takeout food and souvenirs. One popular restaurant is a stand-up, eat-in sushi bar.
On the second floor, there is a miniature model museum of Edo-era buildings for a 200-yen entrance fee. There also are arcade games to play for 350 yen.
Oedo-Onsen Monogatari may be just a one-day excursion to experience a Japanese onsen, but it also is a time-trip through the history of Tokyo.
If you go
Visiting Oedo-Onsen Monogatari can be an educational experience for servicemembers in Japan, but it also can be a confusing one. Follow these directions and you’ll avoid making a spectacle of yourself:
At the entrance, visitors are asked to put their shoes in the lockers on the left side of the entrance doors. Pay the admission fee at the front desk in the entrance hall. You will be given a pass and a locker key in exchange for a shoe locker key.
Choose a yukata and tell the clerk the number of the yukata you like. You will be given an old Japanese gold coin to exchange for a yukata. With yukata, you also will receive a belt, which comes in four different colors and a purse to carry your belongings in.
You can change into the yukata in the locker rooms. Visitors are each given a locker. The number is on the pass. The locker number includes a Japanese character and numbers. The character is shown on the curtains in the locker room where the locker is located. After changing into the yukata, visitors can exit into the main area of the building where the restaurants and souvenir shops are.
You can eat and shop in the area by charging it using the bar code on your pass. Drink machines also take bar codes. Most restaurants and the food court close between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.
The massages also cost extra, and they can be charged to your pass. Foot massages run from 2,200 yen or about $20 for a 20-minute course to 5,500 yen or about $50 for a 60-minute course. A scrubbing — given in the naked bath area — runs from 3,800 yen or about $35 for a 30-minute course, to 12,000 yen or about $110 for a 70-minute course. In order to receive these services, reservations are required.
If you want to try the onsen, there are men’s and women’s locker rooms outside each bath. You will be given one large and one small bath towel at the locker room desk. You will need a refundable 100 yen coin to use the lockers.
When you leave, stop by the front desk in the entrance hall to pay your bill.
– Hana Kusumoto