It’s no secret that Japan is one of the most seismically active places on Earth. But this is also a good thing when you take one of the country’s most valuable assets into consideration: the Onsen, which is Japanese for hot spring. You can find hot springs all over Japan, and indeed whole towns have been known to capitalize off of their proximity to the geothermal boilers. However if you live the Greater Tokyo Area, you know that the chances of finding one of these natural pools is slim to none.
There are 3 choices for springs lovers in urban settings:
- Take a mini-vacation to places like Atami, Hakone, and Izu in Kanagawa prefecture, or to Gunma or Tochigi prefecture. These places are known for having good onsen hotels and depending on the season, you can also ski, snowboard, hike, and more. The water coming out of the ground is rich in minerals and other healing agents and its naturally heated to perfection by Mother Earth. Many of these places are resorts so they provide soap, towels, shaving kits and more. Some also have very good restaurants attached to them.
- Go visit your local “sento” meaning Japanese bathhouse. You can find these places in most areas around Tokyo, especially older “shitamachi” areas like Asakusa, Senju, and Kanda. I even spotted one in Ginza recently. These places were originally made out of necessity because a lot of homes didn’t have enough space for a tub or even hot water! So every neighborhood had a bathhouse. Because of this, most sento lean heavilly utilitarian in the way of facilities: places to wash up, a big rectangular tub for 8-14 people to sit in, and that’s it. You bring your own toiletries and soap.
- The “Super Sento” or “Super Spa”. These are a mixture of #1 & #2 and this author’s personal favorite when wanting to relax. Imagine a ginormous sento or a country onsen that decided to move to the city and snag a penthouse apartment.
The “Super Sento” brings all the amenities of a countryside hot springs resort into the middle of town.
Manyo Club Onsen in Yokohama
Located in Yokohama’s Minato-Mirai district right across the street from its iconic Ferris Wheel, 万葉倶楽部 or “Manyo Club” is a great place to relax after touring the nearby Chinatown and Red Brick Warehouse areas. Located just a short 5 minute walk away from the Minato-Mirai line station of the same name, it carries all the amenities of a fine countryside hot springs hotel but with dramatic views of the Yokohama seaside. Actually, if you want to stay overnight or even over several days, there is an attached hotel as well.
The main draw of course is the onsen. This is a true spring; the water is trucked in 6 times a day from springs in Atami and Yugawara, spitting distance from Mt. Fuji. There are a variety of pools to soak your stress away in, from the usual and very large indoor tubs, to various rooftop outdoor pools overlooking the Minato Mirai district. There are even private tubs that are rented by the hour for those who want some “private time” with family or significant other.
In addition to the onsen, there are several other amenities as well:
- Full service restaurants, both buffet and set menu style
- Manga reading room and Internet cafe
- Traditional Thai massage and British style reflexology services
- Dry, salt, and herbal sauna rooms
- Gift shop, meeting rooms, banquet hall rentals and more
Manyo Club is located just 30 minutes by express train from central Tokyo and can be reached directly by using either Minato Mirai station on the Minato Mirai line (Tokyu Toyoko line), or Sakuragi-cho station on JR’s Keihin-Tohoku and Negishi lines and the Yokohama City Subway Blue line. There is also free shuttle service that operates between Yokohama station and the resort from 10am until 11pm hourly.
Opening Hours: 10:00-9:00 (the following morning) Open everyday
Address: 2-7-1, Shinko, Naka-ku, Yokohama, 231-0001 (map link)
Closest Railway Station:
Sakuragicho Station: JR Keihin Tohoku Negishi Line / Municipal Subway Line
Minatomirai Station: Minatomirai Line
Set admission (hours from 10:00 am – 09:00 the following morning)
Adults (older than Junior High School): 2,620 yen
Children (Elementary School Students): 1,470 yen
Children (3 to under school age): 980 yen
Children under 3: Free.
Credit Cards: all major cards accepted
Languages Spoken: Japanese, English
Odaiba Oedo Onsen Monogatari
Anything built on Odaiba Island in the middle of the Tokyo Bay shoreline automatically qualifies for over-the-top status. This is no different. They say “everyday is a festival here” as a tagline, and the second you walk in, it’s like being transported into any Spirited Away bathhouse scene. Once you’ve entered, head to the changing room and swap your street wear for a yukata, and you’re ready to stroll around the complex which is set up like a small Edo-era village in the middle of summer festival season.
Weekdays M~F Adult: JPY2,480
Weekends, Holidays Adults: 2680~2,880JPY
Late Night Discount Entry: 2,000 JPY
Children: JPY1,000 (rate doesn’t vary)
Amenities: Japanese Restaurant, Game Corner, Fortune Telling, Massage, Sauna, Day Spa, TV room, Capsule Hotel
Hours: Open Everyday 7/365, closes 9am~11am for maintenance.
Access: Yurikamome Line, Telecom Center station, 2 min. walk
Address: 135-0064 Tōkyō-to, Kōtō-ku, Aomi, 2 Chome 6-6-3 (map link)
Saya no Yudokoro at Maenohara Onsen
A true-to-life hot spring oasis in Tokyo’s Itabashi Ward, the natural waters found here have been used for relaxation first by a fairly rich family as this was their private estate. Then in 1946, they decided to open it up to the public to enjoy…for a fee of course. Fast forward 70 or so years and while the neighborhood around it has grown and urbanized, the onsen itself has been renovated in all its Showa Era glory.
Unlike many other super sento in Tokyo, Saya no Yudokoro’s waters come from 1500 meters directly underground and are naturally high in sodium chloride content which gives its water a greenish tint. It’s said to be good for those suffering from arthritis and poor circulation. I suffer from neither, but did note my usually stiff shoulders were very loose by the time I got out! Another noteworthy point is the Japanese gardens surrounding the facility. It is incredibly hard to remember that you’re still in the middle of Tokyo when strolling the grounds sipping a hot cup of green tea from the restaurant inside. That restaurant serves traditional Japanese cuisine like tempura, udon, and more; nothing beats a nice meal after soaking in the springs… Or are you a “eat-before-soak-after” type?
Weekdays M~F Adult: JPY830, Children: JPY520
Weekends, Holidays Adults: 1030, Children: JPY720
Amenities: Japanese Restaurant, Massage, Sauna, Aroma Therapy
Hours: 10:00am~1:00am (next day)
Access: Mita Subway Line, Shimura-Sakanoue Station, Exit A2, 8 min. walk
Address: 3 Chome-41-1 Maenochō, Itabashi-ku, Tōkyō-to 174-0063 (map link)
Image by: Jason Gatewood
Image by: Maenohara Onsen/Saya no Yudokoro (via website www.sayanoyudokoro.co.jp