Those seeking to escape the hustle and bustle of Japan’s big cities will find what they are looking for in a hot-spring paradise hidden deep in a forest.
Located about 90 kilometers west of Tokyo, Hakone in Kanagawa Prefecture is a famous onsen (hot springs) resort area located on a mountain region bordering Mount Fuji and encompassing the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park.
At present, a total of 17 hot-spring resorts are listed in Hakone, including the Hakone Yumoto, Tonosawa, Miyanoshita, Gora and Kowakudani spas. Each has its own unique attributes, and the medicinal qualities of the hot-spring’s waters are rich and varied.
Because Hakone is easily accessible from Tokyo, the area offers an array of hot-spring facilities to accommodate short-stay visitors. Such bathhouses typically provide towels, soap. shmpoo and even toothbrushes, so that visitors can drop in empty-handed.
Hakone Yuryo is one such example, featuring a large indoor bath in addition to three types of open-air baths as well as a sauna for both men and women. The facility offers a roryu sauna from Finland once every hour between 11:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m each day. The process requires a sauna meister to pour aromatic water over hot stones, generating steam and pushing up the mercury in the cabin. The meister then swirls the air with a huge fan so that waves of humidity wash over the visitors. The roryu sauna is believed to help improve circulation and reduce stress. Admission is ¥1,400 for adults and ¥700 for children (children aged 5 years old and under are not allowed in the facility).
The facility also has 19 private rooms featuring an open-air bath (from ¥3,900 per room, per hour), a restaurant and a souvenir shop. From March 27 through April 1, the private open-air baths will be decorated with cherry blossom flowers so that guests can enjoy hamami (flower-viewing) while bathing.
Yuryo is open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and until 10 p.m. on Saturdays and national holidays. A free shuttle bus is available from Hakone-Yumoto Station on the Odakyu Line.
In Kowakudani area, a hot-spring theme park called Yunessun offers more than 25 kinds of spa-related services and water recreational attractions, as well as indoor and outdoor hot-spring baths.
The facility is divided into zones in which visitors wear bathing suits and zones in which they wear nothing. Many styles of baths are on offer, including wine, green tea, coffee and Japanese sake. During the Golden Week period, a collagen bath with gold foil will be available. The facility also offers a foot bath with “doctor fish,” which nibble away at old dead cells from the skin.
Mori-no-Yu, located in the same premise, features eight kinds of Japanese-style indoor and outdoor baths, including a hinoki （Japanese cypress) bath. Every month, the facility offers a different kind of bath based on the season. Through the end of March, it will offer a lemon grass aroma bath and, in April, a cherry blossom viewing bath will be prepared.
Yunessun is open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission is ¥2,900 for adults, ¥1,600 for children and ¥1,700 for people aged over 65. A passport that allows guests to enter Yunessun and Mori-no-Yu costs ¥4,100 for adults, ¥2,100 for children and ¥2,200 for seniors.
A number of luxury hotels and ryokans (Japanese traditional inns) in Hakone also make their bathing facilities accessible to day-trippers.
Hotel Hatsuhana in Oku-Yumoto, for example, is famous for its spacious indoor baths and outdoor baths surrounded by a Japanese-style garden. The hotel is now offering a lunch and hot-spring plan by which guests can enjoy hot-spring baths as well as Japanese cuisine consisting of local seasonal delicacies. The lunch is available between 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., and the hot-spring facility is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Guests can also stay in a superior room for relaxation between 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. The plan costs ¥11,000 per person on the basis of double occupancy and ¥9,000 for triple occupancy. Advance reservation is required.
In the Yunohanasawa area, Hakone Yunohana Prince Hotel has just reopened after extensive renovations. Located at the highest point among Hakone’s 17 hot-spring sites, the hotel’s hot spring features cloudy io-sen (sulfurous springs), which are famous for leaving bathers’ skin soft and smooth. It is open to visitors from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and from noon to 6 p.m. on weekends. Admission is ¥1,700 for adults and ¥1,080 for children. With additional charges, guests can enjoy the hotel’s lunch and stay in a guest room.
Other hot-spring facilities scheduled to open in the near future include Ryuguden’s main building in Takogawa and Hakone Kowakien Ten-yu in Kowakudani. Located on the shore of Lake Ashi, Ryuguden’s new bathing facility, which is slated to open in July, commends a superb view of Mount Fuji and Lake Ashi. Ten-yu, meanwhile, a new ryokan scheduled to open on April 20, will feature two spacious bathing areas. One of them, Ukigumo-no-Yu (Bath of Drifting Clouds), makes bathers feel as if they are floating in the sky with an infinite view of the horizon. Ten-yu’s onsen facility will be limited exclusively to overnight guests.
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