Tag Archives: Spa

Hakone

Hakone is a popular vacation getaway about one and a half hours outside of Tokyo. It is a beautiful little area nestled in the crater of a volcano. Just getting there is part of the fun. You take the Odakyu line from Shinjuku to Odawara, then transfer to a tiny railroad line called the Hakone Yumoto line that winds its way up the lower part of the volcano. As it gets higher, it has to reverse directions several times to switchback up the steeper areas.
Along the way, make sure you stop for a while at the Chokoku-no-mori station to visit the Hakone Open Air Museum. It is a beautiful art museum with most of its display dedicated to large sculptures that dot beautiful lawns. They also have a building dedicated to works by Picasso.

All photos by Kevin Green

After getting back on the Hakone Yumoto line, you go all the way to the end and then take a cable car that pulls you straight up a steep section of the slope. From here there is a beautiful view of the surrounding countryside. At the end of the cable car, you get on a ropeway that takes you over the crest of the mountain into the gigantic crater. Looking out the ropeway, you pass a section where they are drilling into the side of the mountain to prevent the pressure from building up and causing an explosion. Make sure you get off at the stop in the middle of the ropeway to see the “sulfurous vapor erupting area.” Here you can take a short nature walk and see the sulfur steaming from the ground, and natural hot springs from the volcano. You can eat eggs boiled in the hot water which the Japanese say will help you live longer. Along the nature trail there are signs in Japanese and English that tell you such things as “This area was once covered with tall trees, but now you can find only the species which have been able to survive such things as Volcanic eruption.” The ropeway will then take you the rest of the way into the crater to Lake Ashi, which you cross on large replicas of pirate ships.
Lake Ashi is a crater lake famous for its reflection of Mt. Fuji on clear, calm days. The boat takes you to Hanokemachi which is a historical area from the 1600’s, including the Hakone Checkpoint and a portion of an ancient highway that was lined with cedars to provide shade hundreds of years ago. By the time we get here we are pretty tired, so we catch a bus to the Fujiya Hotel in Miyanoshita to spend the night. It is a beautiful hotel established in 1878, making it the oldest western-style hotel in Japan. It has been visited by many famous people including Albert Einstein, Dwight Eisenhower, Margaret Thatcher, Hellen Keller, and many emperors of Japan. It is nestled among trees, and has a beautiful garden in back which is home to the only California Redwood tree in Japan. Inside the decor is beautiful, including many wood carvings. You can also bathe in the natural hot spring onsens. The next day, be sure to see some of the many other attractions in the area including the Hakone Ashinoyu Flower Center (a gigantic greenhouse with many types of flowers and other plants – indoors, so nice even in case of rain) and the Botanical Garden of the Wetlands.
On our way home the next day, we stopped at the Odawara Castle. The old castle town of Odawara serves as the main gateway to the Hakone district. About a 10-minute walk from Odawara Station is the reconstructed five-story donjon (central structure of the castle). It houses a museum of historical materials, ancient suits of armor and swords, folk arts & crafts, and special exhibits. The view of Sagami Bay from the fourth floor is excellent. Open 9am-4:30pm, admission is Y200 for adults, Y100 for children. The park surrounding the castle includes a playground and small zoo. Brian & Kristen Marriott, 2001.
DRIVING DIRECTIONS: Driving in these areas, especially on weekends or in the summer, can be very difficult. Traffic is extremely heavy and slow. To maximize your sightseeing time, it is well worth the effort to leave no later than 5am. To enter the Hakone district at Odawara, take Rt. 16 from Yokota south, until it joins Rt. 129. Just north of Atsugi, you will see elevated Rt. 246 and a sign for the Tomei Expressway. Turn right immediately after passing under elevated Rt. 246 – this leads to a ramp that puts you on 246. Go through Atsugi. Look for signs for Odawara/Atsugi toll road (this will be south of Atsugi). When you see the signs, it will be a right turn. You will drive parallel to the toll road for several kilometers before entering. Once you are on the toll road, you will pass through two tollbooths and pay Y350 at each. When the toll road ends, follow the signs to Rt. 1. At Miyanshita (about 7km), the road will divide. The hotel is at the fork on the left. The right fork of the road will lead to Gora. The left fork will lead to Lake Ashi, which you could visit before checking in at the hotel, since check-in is not until 2pm.


TRAIN DIRECTIONS: Take the Ome Line to Tachikawa. Change to the Chuo Line and go to Tokyo Station. You can take either the Shinkansen (“Kodama Train”, takes 42 minutes, runs every 20 minutes) or a regular train (Tokaido Line, takes 90 minutes, runs every 15 minutes) to Odawara Station. You can also reach the Hakone area from Shinjuku or Machida stations on the Odakyu Railway. Express trains run regularly to Odawara (takes 90 minutes), while the super-fast “Romance Car” runs only every 30 minutes (seat reservations required). Two different transportation companies, Hakone Tozan Railway and Izu Hakone Railway, offer discount tickets from which you can choose. These passes are convenient for multiple use of various modes of transportation after you reach the Hakone area and are valid for four days. The Hakone Free Pass allows you to use the Hakone Tozan Railway, bus, cable car, ropeway, the Odakyu highway bus (between Togendai and the Tomei Gotemba Expressway interchange) and the Hakone excursion boat on Lake Ashi as many times as you wish. These passes are sold at all Odakyu Railway stations and at the Hakone Tozan Information Center at Odawara Station (“Romance Car” ticket not included). Approximate prices from Odawara are Y3,500 for adults and Y1,750 for children (Y4,600 per adult from Shinjuku). Depending on the attraction, the pass includes 10% discounts for Gora Park, Hakone Museum, Chokoku-no-Mori (Hakone Open Air Museum), Hakone Checkpoint, Narikawa Art Forum, Hakone Arboretum, Owakudani Natural Science Museum, etc. A similar pass known as the Hakone-Wide Free Pass allows use of the Izu Hakone bus, cable car, ropeway, excursion bus, and includes discounts at various attractions. The pass is sold at travel agencies and the Izu Hakone Information Center at Odawara Station (for a little less than the other pass.) Cheryl Raggio, Margaret Summers.Lodging in Hakone Fujiya Hotel near the Miyanoshita

(Fujiya Hotel Garden, Sarah Straus, November 2011)

Station. They have a special foreigner’s rate of about $130 per night. All of their employees study English in the United States and making reservations by phone is easy. You can contact them at FUJIYA HOTEL 359 Miyanoshita, Hakone, Kanagawa Pref., Tel.0460-2-2211, Telex. 3892-718, Fax 0460-2-2215. http://www.fujiyahotel.co.jp. E-mail/ info@fujiyahotel.co.jp Camp Fuji. Other people stay at Camp Fuji, a little further away, but less expensive ($25/day in 2001). They then drive into Hakone. The number for billeting is 265-5502. (Camp Fuji Operator is 265-5011)

For more information, see:

• http://www.odakyu.jp/english/ For information on Odakyu Railroad, information, including Hakone Free Pass.
http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/index.html  For the Japan National Tourist Organization’s “Practical Travel Guide” on Hakone. (Click on “Regional Tourist Guides” then “Practical Travel Guide”

Our Hakone Trip

Over Thanksgiving break my husband, 1 year old, 3 year old and I went to Hakone for two nights. It was fun for everyone and there is an amazing hotel there that has a foreigner rate of $133/night plus tax. There is hotel parking. The hotel is: Fujiya Hotel. You have to call to get the special rate, which is offered during the week, not weekends. It is an older hotel with big rooms and a beautiful garden in the back. There is a lot to do in Hakone. We most enjoyed the ropeway ride over the volcano and the Open Air Museum, which houses some fabulous kid friendly sculptures. I thought this webpage was helpful while planning what to do on the trip: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e5200.html. It has a nice overview of the various attractions. We didn’t figure out how to buy the Hakone Free Pass, which allows one payment for two days of transport on all the Hakone trains, funicular, ropeway, pirate ship, and buses. Over Thanksgiving the hotel was not too busy and the fall colors were amazing! We’ll definitely go again. –Sarah S., 2012

Hakone Open Air Museum – kids can climb up into this sculpture and run around at the very center.  Sarah Straus, 2011.

 

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: www.showakan.co.jp/english/stay/

– 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: http://www.nissan-nics.co.jp/katakurinoyu/index.html.  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. www.gws.ne.jp/home/onsen/. 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.