Ooedo Onsen Monogitari, Tokyo

Mindblowing is the word I use to describe this place.  This is the Disney of hot springs!  Ooedo Onsen Monogitari is an onsen theme park located in Tokyo Bay.  It is also a fully functioning natural hot springs onsen, with multiple indoor and outdoor baths.

Yurikamome line & Tokyo’s Rainbow Bridge (Brianlockwood)

Getting to Ooedo Onsen Monogitari is a great trip in itself.  I took the Yurikamome automated train that goes across Tokyo Bay’s Rainbow Bridge.  The views of Tokyo were stunning, and the Telecom Center station stop is worth a visit on its own.  From Telecom Center, it’s a short walk (3 minutes) to Ooedo Onsen Monogitari.  The entrance reminded me of a typical Japanese Ryokan but on a man-made island, surrounded by automation!  It’s reminiscent of a typical Japanese anachronism of history amidst high technology.  Those who have visited Japan know exactly what I mean by that, and you will too once you’ve been there a few days.

Entrance to Ooedo Onsen Monogatari

There were no lineups when I went!

Inside, again, the design is of a typical ryokan but serving thousands of people per day.  Language was not really an issue – once I paid my entrance fee, I really didn’t have much of a choice but to go in the same direction as everyone else!  Like Disney, you automatically get carried to Main Street.

Inside, there is a reproduction of a historic Japanese market street – on steroids!  There are food and gift vendors everywhere, games, etc.  It’s the usual Disney/Niagara Falls experience, with a strong Japanese flavour.  It’s a great place to bring kids as they can run around as much as they want but the exits are closely monitored so they can’t leave the building.  There are a lot of families here, especially on the market street.  The food is acceptable to good, the atmosphere is of a fair or carnival, and you can’t really help but smile at all the activity.

Then there are the onsen.  The change rooms dwarf anything I had ever seen before or since, and were about 5x bigger than the largest university change room I have ever seen. There were some excellent hair and skin products freely available in the change rooms and the flow of people was very fluid both going in and going out.

From GoTokyo.org

The change rooms are segregated into men and women’s rooms.  Bathing suits are prohibited, and so are tatoos.  From the change rooms, you go to the wash area were there are hundreds of wash stations for you to clean up at before going into the baths.  The overall feel is clean and efficient – very different from the bustle of the market area. There are so many people going through that the process is smooth and painless; there is no waiting for a wash station, they are all clean and bright, and by the time you have finished getting ready for the onsen, you will be in the mood.

Onsen baths at Ooedo Onsen Monogatari, from TokyoOdaiba.net

Beyond the wash stations are the baths themselves, and you enter an onsen.  A real, functioning not-crazy onsen, with a variety of baths both indoors and out.  There are many different tubs inside, some are large, some smaller, with different temperatures and jets.  I particularly enjoyed going from the vigorous high intensity jacuzzi type very hot spring bath to the large relaxing one by the window.  The outdoors areas were very natural and you could easily forget you are in the middle of downtown Tokyo.  I didn’t get a chance to try the little fish pond or get a massage, but I found these onsen to be totally in line with what I expected for onsen.  There was just “more” of everything!  For details on visiting Ooedo Onsen Monogatari, visit their website here

from vagabondish.com

I really enjoyed my day trip to Ooedo Onsen Monogatari – I had no idea what to expect when I started out and certainly didn’t expect the reality.  Everything was a pleasure, from the train ride to the onsen, to the funky and wild mainstreet, to relaxing in the natural setting of the onsen.  It’s a great day trip in Tokyo.

Il y un excellent article en français au sujet d’Ooedo Onsen Monogatari sur le site dozodomo.com – visualisez-le ici.  If you’d like to see more great photos of the interior of Ooedo Onsen Monogatari, follow this link to an excellent review in French on dozodomo.com

An American Expat Onsen Addict in Japan


Every week, I like to repost someone else’s blog that is particularly interesting and focused on hot springs.  This week, I found this blog written by Greg Goodmacher, an American expat living in Japan.  His blog is about the cultural experiences of life in Japan seen through the eyes of a “hot springs addict”.  There are over 27,000 onsen in Japan, so he’s in the right place to be an addict!

Greg’s most recent post is called “Amazing Snowshoe Trip and Japanese Onsen” and is about snowshoe & hot springs.  It is similar to my own experience in the Gatineau Park & Spa Le Nordik here in Canada, that I wrote about in “Snowshoe & soak”.  The big difference is that he got to visit this cool ice cave near Hokkaido!

Ice Cave in Japan, by Greg Goodmacher

Ice Cave in Japan, by Greg Goodmacher

Follow Greg’s blog and give him a big shout out for sharing his experiences as a Hot Springs Aficionado living in Japan!

Yudanaka Part 2 – Jigokudani Monkey Park

The walk to the monkey's hot springs

The walk to the monkey’s hot springs

Yudanaka is best known for the Jigokudani monkey park, where Japanese macaques enjoy their own onsen. Yes, these are those charming fellows who lounge around in hot springs all year round, stealing tourists’ phones to do facebook updates! You can visit them at the Jigokudani park, located outside of town. Just a bit of a warning – in real life, a 40 lb macaque has very large teeth and one heck of an attitude, along with a penchant for taking anything that’s not locked up. Be careful.

https://www.japaneseguesthouses.com/ryokan-single/?ryokan=Korakukan+Jigokudani

https://www.japaneseguesthouses.com/ryokan-single/?ryokan=Korakukan+Jigokudani

Inside the Jigokudani Monkey Park is Korakukan, a 150 year old mountain lodge accessible only on foot, for the adventurous who carries their luggage. https://www.japaneseguesthouses.com/ryokan-single/?ryokan=Korakukan+Jigokudani We didn’t stay there but it does have good TripAdvisor reviews, so I will definitely try it the next time I go.

Park keepers throw rice into the hot spring to get the macaques to dive in.  You can get very close to the monkeys when this happens since the monkeys are more interested in the rice than in the tourists.  It’s fun to watch the little ones swimming underwater and the social dynamics of the macaque families.

At the onsen in Jigokudani

At the onsen in Jigokudani

Onsen tamago, or "hot spring eggs", Yudanaka, Japan

Onsen tamago, or “hot spring eggs”, Yudanaka, Japan

Walking back from the park, we stopped in at a wonderful sake factory and museum on the main street. It was full of history and some lovely flights of sake. I stocked up on Nigori sake, my favorite. Then we found one of the funkiest things I saw in Yudanaka: onsen tamago, or onsen eggs. These are eggs placed in a pot under a hot spring. The heat of the flowing water boils the egg. There was another basket to leave money to pay for the eggs you take, on an honour system. We sat in the park by the river with our eggs and our sake and had a memorable dinner!

 

A Visit to Hot Springs Country, Yudanaka, Japan

This post is Part 1 of a series. There are too many hot springs in Yudanaka for just one post, so I have broken this down into sections. Stay tuned for more!

Nagano county, seen from the train

Nagano county, seen from the train

Yudanaka is a quaint and lovely village about an hour away from Nagano. It is very picturesque and traditional. We went in mid-September, and I really enjoyed the train ride through miles and miles of apple orchards and rice fields. The rice was a glorious golden yellow and the wonderful crisp fresh apples and their products were in season in all the markets.

 

Yudanaka, Japan

Yudanaka, Japan

Yudanaka is full of onsen. Hot streams run through the town, and there are springs bubbling up in almost every front yard. Some of the waters can be quite hot, so caution around puddles is a good idea. There are foot baths on many street corners, and most ryokan have their own onsen.

 

On our first night, our host at the ryokan took us to a local onsen with a view. We traveled along a windiYudanaka Onsenng switchback road to a private bath house up high on a mountainside ski hill. The lights of the village glittered far below, as we enjoyed our own private outdoor pool. The water is not strongly scented, the baths are clean and again there were apples for the taking in a basket. There were low light candles all around us. It was a truly magical experience!

Yudanaka has a long history as a small ski and hot springs resort town, so there are a lot of hotels, springs, restaurants and other services.  Somehow though, it has not lost its human scale and is inviting, charming, and tranquil.  This is a wonderful village to spend a lot of time in.

Yudanaka’s most famous hot springs aficionados are the Japanese snow monkeys.  Stay tuned for the next post in this series, where we will spend a glorious day in Jigokudani Monkey Park!