Category Archives: Onsen – Massage – Salon

Hiking from Mt. Mitake to Okutama

The hike from Mt. Mitake to Okutama is a gnarly one made even more adventurous with an overnight at an inn on the mountain.  I had a cousin of mine, a hard core hiker, coming to town so I researched some of the hiking options in the area.  My research led me to spend a night at the Shukobo Komadori-sanso Inn, a lovely little spot in the village near the top of Mt. Mitake.  This seemingly forgotten and a little bit dusty place (not perfect) was our introduction to the Japanese Inn.  My wife and I and my cousin and his girlfriend arrived after a short walk from the top of the cable car and a stop at the Mitake Visitor Center where we picked up a map of the hike (a map with Japanese letters is a must!).  Upon checking in, the innkeeper insisted that we change into our robes and return for dinner.  Dinner in the small dining room was surprisingly good!  Our room was good sized with futons on the floor and a table inside the room and on the shared patio.  A small onsen tub is available in both the women’s and men’s washroom.  The next morning we were served a hearty breakfast before we headed for Okutama.  This hike is no joke.  We summited two different mountains as we trekked up and down (it seemed like the trail was never flat).  A few of the spots had great views of Mt. Fuji.  Bring lots of food and water; there are no vending machines up here, baby. The trail leads down to Okutama where you can get some food and take the train back home. This hike is not for children. Teens may be okay.  This trip sure makes for a pretty simple 24 hour getaway from Yokota for those with only one day to spare.  Happy Travels!  – Zeke Lyons, January 2018

Honke Bankyu Onsen

Honke Bankyu is a remote, traditional ryokan located approximately 1 hour north of Nikko.  They have fabulous accommodations, unbelievable kaiseki dinners and breakfasts, and amazing onsens. There are multiple private as well as public indoor and outdoor onsens within the ryokan; public onsens have separate spas for men and women. The ryokan has been owned and operated by the same family for 25 generations. All outdoor onsens are situated alongside a crystal emerald-blue river. We received a special treat while there last week,…beautiful snow! I’ve now stayed in 3 ryokan onsens and this by far was my favorite! Even the futon was luxurious and plush!

Note: the onsen has limited options for eating outside of the establishment. The area is a resort area, but primarily consists of ryokans (most of which all serve meals).

The resort provides yukata, tabi socks, and toiletries. Dinner is served nightly across a swing bridge that crosses the river!  Robin Kidder – December 2017

Naruko Onsen

If you love Kokeshi and Onsen, I highly recommend a trip off the beaten path to Naruko Onsen in Miyagi Prefecture. It may take some time and trip planning to get there but this cute little town in Northern Japan is a must see for Kokeshi lovers. We stayed at the Naruko Hotel. They did speak a little English – enough to help when needed. We enjoyed the hotel very much! Very nice and helpful. They provide yukata to wear around the hotel in a cute Kokeshi pattern. They serve breakfast and dinner buffets which were very good! The buffets were filled with Japanese delicacies as well as enough recognizable food for tourists. They have a private onsen you can reserve for 50 minutes for a fee (approximately 2000-5000 yen depending on number of people). Highly recommend reserving before your trip to get a good time if you are interested in private onsen (the Yujo can help with your call!). The hotel also has their own vast Kokeshi collection on display and a cute gift shop. We reserved our room on for a reasonable price. They do have a cancellation policy so please keep that in mind when reserving.

While in Naruko, check out the Japanese Kokeshi Museum and Naruko Gorge. The Gorge may take some planning to get transportation out to the site. The Japanese Kokeshi Museum is filled with Kokeshi from various Tohoku areas highlighting the different dolls and artists from each area. You can even paint your own Kokeshi! There is a small fee to tour the museum but it is under 500 yen. Painting the doll costs around 1000 yen. The town has many shops filled with Tohoku kokeshi! This trip could be a part of a Tohoku road/shinkansen trip or a fun girls’ trip weekend.

Also recommend following Naruko_Hotel and tohokukokeshi on Instagram for more information and tips.  – Jennifer McCarthy, October 2017

Town: Narukoonsen
Osaki, Miyagi Prefecture 989-6100, Japan

Naruko Hotel
Yumoto-36 Narukoonsen, Ōsaki-shi, Miyagi-ken 989-6823, Japan
+81 229-83-2001

Japanese Kokeshi Museum:
Shitomae-74-2 Narukoonsen, Ōsaki-shi, Miyagi-ken 989-6827, Japan
+81 229-83-3600

Naruko Kyo
Narukoonsen, Osaki, Miyagi Prefecture 989-6100, Japan

Station: Naruko-Onsen Station
Kawarayu Narukoonsen, Ōsaki-shi, Miyagi-ken 989-6100, Japan

3 day weekend in Shimoda and Hakone

Our favorite 3 day weekend in Japan was spent in Shimoda and Hakone over the July 4th holiday weekend.  I sent my husband a bunch of google pins I had seen shared on Facebook that I thought looked fun and he came up with an itinerary to visit as many spots as we could.  We have two boys, 8 and 4, so all our locations needed to be family friendly and fun for the kids.

We packed up our car early Saturday morning and started our drive to our first spot, a place called the seven waterfalls on the Izu Peninsula.  It took us about 2 hours to get there from base and we spent about ¥3000 in tolls.

We walked down from the free parking lot and first ventured down to view some waterfalls at the bottom of the hill.  It was just a short walk down some stairs and along the water.  Worth a quick trip down to check out the views.

We then went looking for the onsen we had heard about called Amagisou.  This was just a little farther down the road.  It was inside a hotel so we went to the front desk to pay.  They had a QR code you could scan with your smart phone for a discount as well.  After paying (¥2000/adult, ¥1000/child) we headed downstairs to the men’s and women’s changing rooms where we could change into our bathing suits before walking down to the hot springs.  Connected to the changing rooms were very nice gender specific no clothes indoor onsens. It was a short walk down some stairs to a beautiful waterfall with hot springs surrounding it.  One of the hot baths was too warm for the kids but most were just fine to sit in for a good time period.  There was also a pool that the boys enjoyed jumping and playing in.  We stayed for about two hours, most of which we had the whole place to ourselves.  The best part of the onsen was the beautiful scenery.  It was truly relaxing hearing the sound of the waterfall behind you as you soaked in the warm water.

From here we drove to our hotel, Pension Surf Rider, about a 45 minute drive from Amagiso.  Our room had one full bed and two single beds, a bathroom and shower.  The room was very small but we really just needed a place to sleep.   The people working there did not speak much English but they gave us plenty of handouts about the nearby area.   They had a wonderful breakfast in the morning but we realized we were probably supposed to book at the time you make the reservation.  We were also able to book a family bath time in their outdoor bath.  This was a new experience for us but we all enjoyed it!

Five minutes from the hotel we drove to Dogashima which is known for its stone formations, cliffs and caves formed by the lava flow of past volcanic eruptions and shoreline erosion.  There was a parking lot right at the park and a family mart across the street if you wanted to grab a snack.  The boys enjoyed climbing on the rocks and walking the trails.  The views were amazing and it was a great place to take photos.

The next day we planned for a beach day in Shimoda.  Before hitting the beach we visited Ryugu Sea Cave (about a 50 minute drive from our hotel).  The kids played in the water a bit and it was another great photo opp spot.

We passed 3 nice beaches within 1 mile of the cave but settled on Kisami Beach.  There was a free parking lot right across the road.  We spent most of our day here enjoying the sand, sun and water.  The waves were perfect for our 8 year old to boogie board.

We packed up the car late afternoon and started our drive to Hakone.  An estimated 2 hour drive turned into a 3 hour drive because of traffic.  We spent ¥2000 in tolls along the way.  We checked into our next hotel, Hakone Hotel Kowakien, where we stayed the next two nights.  We really enjoyed this Japanese style hotel.  The grounds were beautiful and the hotel was in close proximity to more of the locations we planned to visit.  There was also a Family Mart right next to it where we purchased easy dinners and drinks.  The hotel offered breakfast and dinner buffets but we chose to save money eating Yakitori and sandwiches from the Family Mart.  Our family room had 4 single beds, two vanities and a shower/tub room.

Our first full day in Hakone we walked across the street from the hotel to the Yunessen Resort and Spa.  The kids were able to enjoy a large pool and outdoor water slides while the adults enjoyed the wine, coffee, green tea, and pearl baths.  We also experienced the feet eating fish called Dr. Fish.  There was an eatery on site so we were able to grab lunch there.  You could also leave the resort and come back later if you wanted to take a break at the hotel.

Yunessun entry fee – Adults ¥3000, Child ¥1800 (hotel did offer a discount coupon with stay)

We took a break from the resort to visit the large Tori Gate on Lake Ashi (Shinto Shrine).  It was a short drive from the hotel and it was another great spot to take photos.

We checked out of our hotel on Monday and made one last stop before heading home.  We had heard great things about the Open Air Museum in Hakone and it did not disappoint.  The grounds were absolutely stunning and the art was unique and beautiful.  There were many structures the kids could play in or climb on.  We also enjoyed a family foot bath.

Museum entry fees – ¥1600/adult, ¥800/child

On our way out of Hakone we stopped in town for coffee and a bite to eat for our drive home.  We found a cute little bakery called “Bakery & Table” which had a wide variety of pastries and coffees.

It was an awesome 3 day weekend and we felt we got to experience a lot of great places in a short amount of time!  Our drive back to base from Hakone was only about an hour and 45 minutes and another ¥3000 in tolls.  Definitely close enough to also be done as a day trip!  – Angela Vaillant, August 2017

Sagamiko Resort Pleasure Forest

This is an amazing park that can entertain a wide variety of ages and interests. It’s no Disneyland, but it’s only a 40 minute drive from Yokota Air Base and it’s cheaper. The park is divided into four zones; the Amusement Zone, Outdoor Zone, Hobby Zone and the Hot Springs Zone.

DSC02893The Amusement Zone has a Ferris wheel (you may have seen this on top of a mountain on your way to/from Mt. Fuji), a mini rollercoaster, two types of go-carts, a pirate ship, a merry-go-round and a number of obstacle courses for kids, just to name a few. There are 30 attractions in all; some have height restrictions. For the go-carts the height restriction is 140cm/55in. 130cm/51in is the height restriction for the swinging pendulum, and for a couple of the other rides the height restriction is 100cm/39in.

There is an Outdoor Zone that can be used for camping during the day or for overnight use. The Hobby Zone has a mountain bike course, and one of the largest radio-control car courses in the Kanto area.

Finally, there is a Hot Springs area called Sagami Lake Onsen Ururi. Apparently, this has a few pools and open-air hot springs that have views up to the mountains and valley. I am unsure whether this onsen has ‘mixed-gender’ pools. For more information, please check out this link: Sagami Lake Onsen Ururi. Or paste this into your browser The first link uses Google Translate.

IMG_5156Starting November through the middle of April, Sagamiko Resort Pleasure Forest hosts an amazing lights display in one portion of the park. The year we went (2014), the park had the biggest light display in the Kanto region with approximately 5 million lights. Classical music was played as we walked along the hillside. There is a chairlift that can take you up through the lights and to a Ferris wheel. The chairlift is an additional cost (cost unknown), as is the Ferris wheel (¥500). Please check the park’s website for illumination hours. They are generally 17:00 to 21:30 with the last admission at 21:00. The section of the park we visited with lights was stroller friendly, aside from the chairlift. INSIDER TIP: The lights are best if you walk around them in a clockwise fashion. And, if you get there before 17:00, you will experience the lights turning on, which includes a full light show coordinated with classical music. To avoid lines, show up early (16:30).

Throughout the park, there are restaurants and BBQ areas. The BBQ areas may need reservations. For more information on Sagamiko Resort Pleasure Forest Park, please use this link: Sagamiko Resort Pleasure Forest. Or paste this into your browser:

DSC02828Admission to the Amusement Zone costs ¥1700 for adults and ¥1000 for children. Rides can then be purchased for ¥200-¥800. An all day pass for adults costs ¥3700, while the children’s free passes cost ¥3000. Admission for the Hot Spring Zone is ¥950 for adults and ¥500 for children during the week. Admission is ¥1000 and ¥500 for adults and kids respectively over weekends and holidays. Admission for the Light Display is ¥600 for adults and ¥400 per child. The cost for the Hobby Zone or General Entrance to the park, outside of the Amusement Zone, is unknown (please feel free to share if you know). Parking costs ¥1000, but for large cars and vans it’s ¥2000 and ¥500 for motorbikes. Parking is free with a receipt from the hot springs. There are at least 2,500 parking spaces, and there a number of parking lots around the park.

Please check the website for the most current park hours. The park is generally open from 09:30 to 16:30 daily, EXCEPT for Thursdays. The onsen hours are typically from 10:00 to 22:00, but occasionally the onsen may be randomly closed, please check the website for the most current information. Linda Bell, December 2014.


IMG_5139The GPS coordinates for the entrance to the parking lot closest to the Amusement Zone and winter lights display are GPS:35.60120 139.20004. To get to the park you can take the Chuo Expressway west to the Sagamiko Exit. The park is about a 10 minute drive from the exit. Driving takes about 40 minutes one-way, and is just under ¥1400 in tolls, round trip. You can avoid the tolls if you travel via Mt. Takao. This route takes a little over 60 minutes, according to Google Maps.

Kawazu Seven Waterfalls, Izu Peninsula

DSC08470If you’re looking to escape the heat from the Izu Peninsula beach or take in a bit of nature, then Kawazu Seven Waterfalls hike is a good place to go. Mostly shaded, this gentle 1 km hike on the Izu Peninsula follows a river with seven waterfalls ranging from 2 meters to 30 meters in height. The 1 km hike begins at Mizutare Parking Lot (top) and ends at Kawazu Seven Falls Bus and Parking Lot (bottom). There are several ways you can do the hike.  You can park at the top or bottom of the trail and hike out and back, approximately 2 km total. Alternatively, you can park at the bottom of the trail, take the bus to the top of the trail, and walk back down the course to your car. Lastly, park at the Mizutare parking lot, hike down the trail, and then take the bus back from Kawazu Seven Falls Bus and Parking Lot. The third option worked well for our small kids. Busses run frequently between stops and when we did the hike, over Independence Day weekend, they ran every 10 minutes.

DSC08447There are detailed English maps about the hike located at Mizutare Parking Lot and Kawazu Seven Falls Bus and Parking Lot.  The hike is not very stroller friendly. Only three to four of the waterfalls can be accessed with a stroller. I’d recommend a baby carrier or kid’s carrying backpack. Alongside each waterfall, there are cute little stone Buddhas and stamps to collect, and along the trail there are also a few larger statues that depict the two characters in the short love story “Izu no Odoriko” (The Izu Dancer), by Kawabata Yasunari. The story and author are well-known in Japan. Towards the bottom of the hike, there are a couple of shops selling food, ice cream and woven items. You can also see the Kawazu Nanadaru Loop Bridge. This is an interesting two story spiral bridge located high above the valley floor on Route 414. Unfortunately, the last and most impressive waterfall, O-daru Fall, was closed when we did the hike. However, there is a lovely outdoor onsen, Izu Oodaru Onsen Hotel Amagisou, that offers a great view of the falls. Kawazu Seven Waterfalls hike is a small part of the Odoriko Trail so if you’re looking to go further, please refer to the picture provided. Linda Bell, July 2014.

DSC08399DIRECTIONS: We drove to this hike from Yumigahama Beach, near Shimoda City. It took approximately 1 hour from the beach. I recommend driving via the costal town of Kawazu, before heading inland to the hike. The more direct, inland route is very windy and slow. The GPS coordinates to Mizutare Parking Lot (top) are N34.80078 E138.93329.  The GPS coordinates for Kawazu Seven Falls Bus and Parking Lot (bottom) are N34.79475 E138.93536.

Hakone Kowakien Yunessun

Water Slides by Linda Bell HakoneHakone Kowakien Yunessun is a water amusement park and spa resort in Hakone-machi, Hakone. It has over 25 water attractions with fun and kitschy theme pools like the red wine pool, green tea pool, Greek Santorini pool, and Roman baths (see photos below).  There are also different spas, water slides, and kiddie pools. Water temperatures vary between the different pools from ~100F to cold spring water. This park is great because it can entertain a wide range of ages from babies to grandparents.

Red wine spa pool linda bell hakoneTo buy tickets to the park proceed to the second floor of the building.  There are three main tickets you can buy, depending on what zones you want to visit. A ticket to the Yunessun Zone gives you entry to the swimsuit-wearing zone. Admission, here, is ¥2800 for adults and ¥1500 for children over 3 years old. A ticket to The Mori No Yu Spa Resort Zone gives entry to two separate nude areas for men and women, and admission here is adults ¥1800 and children over 3 years old ¥1200. A combo ticket can also be purchased which allows entry into both zones. This costs ¥4000 and ¥2000 for both adults and children respectively. I believe tickets for just the afternoon session can be purchased for 1pm til close, but check. Discounted tickets may be bought by using Google Translate at this web site A map of the park, in English, is available on the second floor, but you may need to approach a staff member in order to get one.

Greek Santorini Pool by linda bell hakoneEach ticket holder will be given a plastic bracelet which will act as a key to your locker and also allow you to purchase items at the various restaurants and vending machines. Once you pass the ticketed turnstile and take off your shoes, the locker rooms are basically down the hallway, to your right, on the same floor. The first number on your bracelet does NOT denote a particular floor for your changing room. I don’t believe there are any family changing rooms.

Roman Baths linda bell hakoneThe men’s and women’s locker rooms exit into the same area, the “Clock Square”.  There are a number of restaurant/fast-food places inside the park that range in price and variety. Tattoos are not allowed to be seen at the park. You may need to use sun block/swim tops as part of the park is outdoors. I would not recommend bringing a stroller as the park has many stairs and potentially crowded hallways, and swim diapers need to be accompanied with a swimsuit. In general, the pools aren’t very deep. Our three year old (100cm) was too small for only one of the pools.

When you’ve finished at the park, you leave through the same hallways that you entered, and pay off your bracelet’s amount at the park’s machines. We used cash, but according to the park’s website the reception takes credit cards.  We only visited the Yunessun portion of the park on a Sunday, in summer, and it was relatively crowded so I would suggest trying to go during the week to get the most out of your experience.

The Yunessun Zone opens at 9am, year round, and closes at 7pm from March-October. The rest of the time it closes at 6pm. The Mori No Yu Zone is, however, open from 11am-9pm throughout the year.  For more details about this destination, please visit their website:

Parking at Hakone Kowakien Yunessun park is ¥1000 for the day, but it might be free for the first two hours of your visit (this needs to be confirmed). Parking fees are paid to the automated machine on your way out of the parking lot. Large notes are not accepted e.g. ¥5,000. We arrived at the park after 10am, after we’d stayed the night in Hakone, and we got one of the last parking spots.  – Linda Bell, September 2013.

DIRECTIONS: The GPS coordinates to the entrance of the Park’s parking lot are 35.23916, 139.04460.

For more on Hakone check this separate entry: Hakone.


LaQua Spa at Tokyo Dome City

Spa LaQua is an onsen in the middle of Tokyo Dome City.  They have multiple mineral pools, some with jets. There is a steam room, places to eat, get a massage, have your nails done, watch TV, and sleep. It is a great day spa.  Massage, nails, and food are additional costs. They give you a bracelet that has a chip in it to keep track of your purchases. Tattoos are not allowed, but some of my friends covered themselves up with a small towel and had no issues. I really enjoyed the experience and would go again. In addition, there is plenty of other attractions in the area! There are several train stations around Tokyo Dome City. I arrived at Suidobashi station and it was about a 10 minute walk to the spa. The entrance fee is ¥2565 for adults.  Open year round from 11:00 am to 9:00 am. – Danielle Kirby, February 2013.

For information about enjoying onsens in Japan check here: Onsen: Japanese Hot Spring Baths

A Cut Above

A Cut Above was recommended to me by a British friend of mine. It is located in Tokyo near Hiro-o train station and a 12 minute walk from The New Sanno. It’s an international salon so they were familiar and comfortable with western style hair. They do perms, coloring, facials etc. They speak English really well and have an English website.
DIRECTIONS: To get there you can drive, take the train to Hiro-o station, or take the shuttle for The New Sanno from the Kanto Lodge.  From The New Sanno, walk toward Arisugawa Park and around the left side of the park.  Continue along the street past the end of the park and the salon will be on your left.  The map below shows walking directions from The New Sanno.   GPS: 35.653951, 139.725939.  – Chelsea Metros, February 2013

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Aroma Company

One of my friends referred me to Asayo at the Aroma Company. It is located less than 5 minutes from the supply gate and they offer many types of body treatments and services. You may have seen an ad on YokotaAds also for them. I received a basic facial which lasted an hour. Included was shoulder massage, foot massage and scalp massage on top of the facial treatment. She can perform ion treatment, abrasion, etc. She also offers oil massage, hot stone, body wraps and body scrubs for a very reasonable price. The facial was $35 and she accepts yen OR USD. It was a lovely experience and I will definitely go back again (and again and again)!  Reach them by email:

DIRECTIONS: Upon leaving the Fussa Gate, turn left on Route 16 and stay in the left lane.  Proceed straight for three traffic lights (1.1 km) and you’ll pass the Supply Gate (Gate 5) on your left. Continue going straight and around the 2.0 km point there will be a Y-split and you’ll veer to the right following the blue sign that says “Hachioji”.  You’ll then cross over a bridge that goes over the railroad tracks and when・you get to the bottom of the bridge (2.5 Km), you’ll make a hard 135 degree left turn.  Pass the first traffic light and on the left corner will be a Lawson Convenience Store and about another 100 yards the road will make a 90 degree right turn.  Instead of following the road to the right, you’ll go straight for about 20 yards and turn left into a narrow road which goes to the left.  You’ll see a “P-sign” for 100 yen parking. Park here and she’ll reimburse you the fee. To get to the Aroma Company-Koubou shop, walk back to the Lawson Convenience Store.  At the Lawson intersection cross the street and immediately turn right and you’ll see a automatic glass door on the building in front of you.  Go into the building and go to the basement.  At the bottom you’ll see the entrance to the Aroma Company Koubou Shop. – Kelly Bull, February 2013

Aeon Mall (Diamond City)

aeon mall sarah strausThis huge American-style mall is just two kilometers from the East Gate. Shops include H&M, Gap, Gap Kids, Eddie Bauer, L.L. Bean, Uniqlo and Zara. It is anchored by a large department store with a big supermarket on the first floor.  Also there is a fabulous indoor playground called BorneLund on the first floor.  At the opposite end, on the second floor, is a large store called Victoria that has outdoor equipment and golf supplies. On the second floor is an Aveda Salon aeon mall sarah straus(042-562-5168) where enough English is spoken to achieve a haircut. The Mall also houses a movie theater. (To find out what’s playing: Parking is plentiful and free. Hours: 10am-10pm, open 9am during the Christmas season. Address: 1-3,Enoki 1-chome,Musashimurayama-shi,Tokyo.
DIRECTIONS: Turn left out of the East Gate. Go 300 meters to the 7/11 and turn right on a narrow road. Go straight for 1 kilometer.  Turn left onto Route 59. The corner of the mall will be on your right at the next light.  Turn right here and left into the parking area.

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Spa at the Forest Inn Resort

This is a great spa just 10 minutes away from the base, across the street from Mori Town Mall. The spa is on the 2nd and 8th floors of the hotel and has an English-speaking staff. This spa has just about any service you could want, including: deep-clean facials, oil facials, Thai massages, body wraps, manicures and  pedicures. Prices range from ¥1500 for an individual service to a package for the day at ¥31000. Most massages range from ¥3500 to ¥8000.
DIRECTIONS: turn right out of the East Gate and stay on that road for approximately 10 minutes (depending on the time of day). You will approach Cainz, a big green building on the left that sells home goods. Pass Cainz and you will see an even larger sign for Mori Town Mall. Turn right on that street—if you pass the sign and reach a dead end you went too far. After turning, you will see a Forest Inn Resort sign. Turn into the second entrance and an attendant will be there. Just ask where to park for the spas services. Linda Frommeyer, 10/06.  See comments below by Pam Tubbs.  Here is the URL for the onsen/hotel:

– For reviews of three more local onsens see Onsen-Japanese Hot Spring Baths

Onsen – Japanese Hot Spring Baths

One of the great pleasures of Japan is soaking in the mineral waters of an onsen, a hot spring bath. Japan has thousands. Visiting onsen is a popular weekend activity for Japanese families, and it’s definitely something to try while you’re here. The water in an onsen can be fairly hot depending on its source, but most establishments have several pools of varying temperatures. You can stay in hotels offering onsen baths, in ryokans (Japanese inns) or minshukus (family-run lodging houses.) Or you can visit the public baths. Most onsen hotels offer day use, but often reserve the evening hours for their overnight guests. There are many places in Japan to enjoy the baths, including two just minutes from Yokota’s gates. One more distant area is Beppu, located on the northern coast of Kyushu, which has about 3,700 hot springs. When traveling to Beppu many visitors do a “hot springs circuit” or onsen meguri, trying a dozen or so baths on one trip. The Izu Peninsula is another area famous for its many hot springs. On maps and road signs, onsen are usually marked by a symbol: ♨. (Spas that use heated tap water, sometimes with added minerals, are more properly called “sentos” but sometimes the distinction is not that clear.)
Many Americans feel funny getting naked with strangers. There are a few major onsen, more like water parks really, where you can wear swimsuits. But the vast majority of onsen are gender-segregated and no clothing is allowed in the water. It’s considered dirty. Shy people might find the oblong Japanese towels useful. You can hold them in front of your body until you actually step into the water. But once you see how relaxed the onsen are, you’ll probably shed your inhibitions and get on with the relaxing.
A note about tattoos: Many onsen ban tattoos as a way of banning the Japanese mob, or yakuza, who are prone to massive displays of body art. No one is all that concerned about an American mom with a little daisy inked on her ankle. If you’re a man with sleeve-style tattoos, on the other hand, you should ask ahead.

How to take a Japanese bath
1)     Bring toiletries and a towel, or rent a towel from the front desk. You might also want a washcloth or a skinny Japanese onsen towels to bring into the wet area.
2)     Head for the appropriate locker room  – red curtains for the women’s side, blue for men. Put your big towel and clothes in a basket or locker. (Typically, lockers require a ¥100 coin.)
3)     Enter the washing area with your washcloth or skinny towel. Soap, shampoo and conditioner are usually provided, but you might want to bring your own. Take a bucket and stool over to an available faucet. Sit and use the handheld attachment to rinse yourself. Do not stand.
4)     Wash like crazy. Scrub from head to toe. Every inch. Wash your hair. Rinse thoroughly. Wrap long hair in a towel or use an elastic band to keep it out of the pool.
5)     Once clean, step into the common tub for a long, hot soak. Just be careful not to let your hair or small towel get in the water. Leave your washcloth on the edge of the pool, or stash it on top of your head for safekeeping.

Yuranosato, Akishima  
Yuranosato bathhouse feels like a modern remake of a traditional resort onsen, even though it’s practically sitting on the southern tip of Yokota’s runway. It has several pools, indoors and out, including a couple of wooden vats outside that are small enough to have to yourself, or share with a friend. The outdoor area is especially nice. Inside there are several hot tubs with jets and two saunas.  In the smaller of the two saunas you’ll find a large bowl of salt that you can use to exfoliate your skin.  Cost is about ¥700. You can also buy special services, such as a thorough skin scrub that leaves you smooth as a baby. This is an excellent place for a beginner to the onsen world. One oddity: The larger indoor pool has an “electric chair” feature. Sit in it for a mild electrical stimulation that is said to heal ailments. (Alternatively, it’ll train you not to sit there ever again. You might also lose your appetite for kibble and renounce barking.) Don’t let this put you off. The chair is easily avoided. Opens daily at 9am.  GPS: 35.722166,139.3560.

Comment by Sarah Homrig, August 2103: We visited Yuranosato, Akishima  for the first time and I wanted to include a few specifics.   We paid ¥5,700 and received onsen entry for free and a 60 minute massage.   At first I was weary because it was a room with 6 massage beds, my masseuse was male and we dressed in shorts/top provided which we stayed in the whole time.  But after a few minutes I was almost asleep, they were very professional and it was one of the best massages I have ever had!

Comment by Laura Nelson, September 2015: They don’t allow tattoo’s under any circumstances (even if it’s a flower on an obvious foreign female). FYI

View East Gate to onsen in Akishima (Sento) in a larger map

DIRECTIONS: Turn right out of the East Gate (0km.) Turn right onto Rt. 7 at the traffic light at 1.2km, an intersection with a blue street sign on the far right corner, identifying the road as Itsukaichi Kaido. You’ll soon arrive at a “Y” intersection with a traffic light (1.4km). Bear left here to stay on Rt. 7. Turn left at the traffic signal at 2.4km. (There’s not much to mark this intersection but all four corners are fenced by chain-link, with woods inside. If you were to turn right here you’d soon be at Yokota’s south gate, which isn’t open.) Turn right into the parking lot at 3km. The onsen is set back a bit, past the large parking lot. The sign for it is right on the street. It’s a tall, skinny rectangle, capped by a little sloped roof. It has a red and white hiragana letter at the top: ゆ.

Katakurinoyu Onsen
Katakurinoyu onsen, located near Noyama Kita, is a relaxing little place 4km from the East Gate.  There is both a family/exercise area and traditional onsen. With a bathing suit and swim cap you can enjoy the exercise pool, hot tubs and a childrens pool.  There is also a gender separated hot tub and sauna section.  The onsen/bath includes an outdoor hot tub as well as four indoor tubs that have varying heat levels from very hot to very cold.  To enjoy the facilities, enter through the main doors and head left to take off your shoes.  Each person will need their own shoe key – ¥100 that will be returned when you pick up your shoes.  Pay the ¥700 ticket price at the vending machine and turn in both your shoe key and entry ticket at the front counter in return for a locker key.  Women head through the red curtain, men through the blue curtain.  Once inside the locker room, locate your locker.  On the women’s side, the door to the right of the bathrooms is where you enter if you are wearing your swimming suit and swim cap.  The hot tubs/baths are through the door just down from the vending machine, next to the water fountain.  There is also a place to have a massage here as well as a restaurant that serves basic noodle and curry dishes.  Tel: 042-520-1026.  Hours 10am – 10pm daily, closed on the third Thursday of each month.  Onsen webpage with photos of the different pools:  The first time we went to this onsen we ran the 7 mile loop around Tama Lake first.  The run + hot tubs + lunch made for a very enjoyable morning.  GPS: 35.7626, 139.3877
DIRECTIONS: Turn left out the East Gate. Turn right at the first light (0.3km).  Follow this road until it comes to a four-way intersection with a light 1.3km. Turn left. You will pass Aeon Mall (Diamond City) on your right. Keep going. You will go through about 10 stoplights.  The road will veer right at 2.2km, then cross Shin Ome Kaido at 2.4. Next the road will begin to climb a hill and curve.  The onsen complex is on the left at 3.6km. It has a distinctive round roof. Look for a series of red stripes on the road, warning of a sharp right curve ahead. The parking lot entrance is right where these stripes begin. If it’s full, overflow parking is down the small road leading to Noyama Kita park. Sarah Straus and Michelle Nexon, March 2013

Tsuru Tsuru Bath House
tsuru onsen by Michelle NexonThis onsen is in the town of Hinode. It’s about a 35-minute drive. It also houses a circular restaurant with reasonably priced yakitori, yakisoba and other noodles and rice dishes. If you take the train to the onsen, there is a blue trolley that will pick you up at the train. The cost to get into the onsen is ¥800 for three hours. You can bring your own towels or purchase a hand towel for ¥100 yen, ¥500 for a back towel. There’s a hot bath, cold bath, sauna, therapeutic bath, and outdoor Japanese bath, which is alternates between women’s use and men’s use. There’s a calendar posted outside and inside the onsen indicating which gender gets the outside bath. Red hearts are for ladies, blue upside-down hearts for gents. Generally, women have it on even-numbered days. This bathhouse is regionally famous for making your skin smooth. Tsurutsuru is the Japanese word meaning to make smooth. 10am-8pm. Always closed Tuesdays, and sometimes other days as well. Call to confirm: Tel. 042- 597-1126. (“ash-ta aite mas-ka?” = “Are you open tomorrow?” ) 4718 Oguno, Hinodemachi, Nishi-Tama-gun, Tokyo. GPS: 35.7800, 139.1921.
DIRECTIONS: Turn left out the Fussa Gate (0 km) and immediately get into the right hand lane. Turn right at the next light onto Tambashi-Dori, which crosses the Tama River (2km) and turns into Itsukaichi Kaido. (You’ll see Tambashi-dori just after a motorcycle shop, on the right side of Rt. 16.) Stay on Itsukaichi Kaido, past the Farmer’s Market and the Tokyu Department Store (6km) until the road ends at Musahi Itsukaichi Station, about 25 minutes (~11.6 km from Fussa Gate). Turn right at this “T” intersection. Proceed underneath train tracks and up towards the mountains. Keep going about 5 minutes and make a left at the second stop light (~13.4 km). At this stop light, you will see a sign that says, “Tsuru Tsuru Onsen Iriguchi.” Approximately 1.8 km before the onsen is a small parking lot where you can park the car and take a red trolley-type car up to the onsen. This red trolley leaves the onsen every 15 & 45 minutes after the hour and will take you back to your car. Or you can drive your own car up past a round wood building on the left (~20 km), turn left, then right into the parking lot of the onsen. The information desk at the Yujo has detailed directions.
TRAIN DIRECTIONS: From either Fussa or Higashi-Fussa, take the train toward Tokyo and get off at Haijima. Transfer to the Itsukaichi Line and get off at Musashi-Itsukaichi Station. The blue and cream onsen bus is gussied up to look like a locomotive pulling a train car. (If you zoom to street view on the Google Map of the station, you can often see the bus out front, next to the taxis.) It will take you to the onsen, leaving once an hour. You can see the schedule here. It’s in Japanese. From the station to the onsen is on the left side of the graph. The white column is weekdays.
Walking: Avid hikers may want to make an adventure of it by hiking from Mt. Mitake to Hinodeyama. From there, continue heading downhill and to the east, as if heading to the Hinatawada train station. Eventually you will cross a road with a small sign pointing you to the Tsuru Tsuru bathhouse. You’ll definitely want a trail map to try this. Kathleen Vactor, 2000, photo Michelle Nexon, May 2013

Spa at the Forest Inn Resort -see separate entry.