I spent most of my second day in Tokyo at Oedo Onsen Monogatari, which is a tourist-friendly onsen, not too far from central Tokyo. Before shower facilities became common features in ordinary homes, people would go to the communal baths, typically located around an onsen (hot springs in Japanese). Today people visit onsen to relax and enjoy the health effects associated with the hot spring water.
At Oedo Onsen Monogatari, you get to borrow a yukata during your stay, it’s included in the entrance fee. Getting into a yukata can be quite a challenge, and I always forget whether it’s the left or the right side, which has to be wrapped over the other. Luckily there were posters in the changing room with pictures explaining how to do it. FYI it’s the left side of the yukata, which is wrapped over the right side, unless you’re dead. Dead people are dressed with the right side wrapped over the left side.
I was hungry, so I had a bowl of udon with pickled plum before hitting the baths. Udon noodles are thick, white rice noodles with a slightly chewy texture, almost like bouncy macaroni. They can be slippery and difficult to eat with chopsticks, but they are delicious, both hot and cold.
Afterwards, it was time to get naked. In the onsen baths at Oedo Onsen Monogatari, swimwear isn’t allowed and no big towels either. There was a separate bathing area for men and for women, which is the most common layout nowadays, but it’s still possible to find mixed-gender onsen throughout the country. No matter what, the first couple of minutes always feel a bit awkward, but then you realize that people aren’t there to stare at you and laugh at your cellulites, and you can relax and enjoy the surroundings.
Compared to the other onsen I’ve visited, Oedo Onsen Monogatari was more touristy. I think they even brand themselves as an onsen theme park, and in addition to the onsen, there’s a large main area with restaurants and entertainment. I was there on a weekday, and I think around one third of the visitors were foreigners, mainly from other Asian countries. It’s probably different on weekends, with more Japanese people dropping by.
There’s also a beautiful garden outside with a footbath walk, which however turned out to be pure torture. The bottom of the walk is covered with stones, which are supposed to massage your feet as you walk. I wouldn’t know, because it was so painful, I only managed to take half a step, before I jumped right up again. Apart from that, it was a really nice and relaxing experience.
An onsen is a traditional, communal bathing facility, typically located around a hot spring (onsen in Japanese). In the old days, this was where you would go to take a bath, but nowadays, people go to onsen for recreational activities and spa treatments.
Oedo Onsen Monogatari is easily accessible from the central part of Tokyo and offers a tourist-friendly onsen experience. The water is pumped up from a natural spring, 1400m under the ground and is believed to have a variety of health benefits.
Compared to traditional onsen, Oedo Onsen Monogatari is more touristy.
All the signs and instructions are provided both in English and Japanese, and they’re a great help in order to prevent some of the most common mistakes and make your visit smooth and carefree.
You leave your shoes in the lockers located to the left at the entrance. Then you proceed to check in at the cashier, who will provide you a wristband to wear during your stay. The wristband also works as an electronic wallet, which you use to pay for meals and treatments.
After checking in, you proceed to the yukata desk, where you pick a yukata of your choice, which you’ll be wearing during your stay.
In the changing room, there’s a closet waiting for you with the same number as the one on your wristband. If you aren’t sure how to put on the yukata, there are posters telling you how it’s done. The main thing to remember is to wrap the left side of the yukata over the right side. Wrapping the right side over the left side is only used when dressing dead people. People usually wear their underwear under the yukata.
Dressed in your yukata, you can now enter the main area, which is where you’ll find all the restaurants and entertainment. This area is both for men and women, so keep your clothes on.
The bathing area, on the other hand, is divided into a male section and a female section. You aren’t allowed to bring your cellphone or your camera to this area, as photography is strictly prohibited. Before heading to the baths, you leave your yukata and your belongings, including your wristband, in one of the lockers. To enter the bathing area, you have to be completely naked, and you can only bring a small towel to cover up. Before you enter the pools you have to take a shower at the shower cubicles located to the right after you enter.
There are 6 different kinds of baths including a whirlpool. All of them are very hot, so step in slowly. The open-air section is my favorite, and don’t worry; there’s a big fence around, so nobody can peek inside. The sauna and steam rooms are really hot too, but you feel like a newborn when stepping out after a couple of minutes in the heat.
There’s a beautiful garden with a footbath walk open to both men and women. While it’s probably the best place to take photos, the footbath walk itself is pure torture. The bottom is covered with rounded stones which are supposed to massage your feet while you’re walking. Ouch! I didn’t manage to take one single step, before it became too painful.
From Central Tokyo, the easiest way to go to Oedo Onsen Monogatari is to take the metro to Shinagawa Station, then change to the Yurikamome train. Get off at Telecom Center Station, from there Oedo Onsen Monogatari is only a short walk away.
• The entrance fee is ¥ 2480 (¥2680 on Sat-Sun). The onsen is open all night, but there’s an additional charge of ¥2160 if you stay after 2:00am.
• People with tattoos are not allowed to enter, and since you have to be completely naked in the baths, hiding the tattoo under a T-shirt or swimwear isn’t an opportunity either.
• It’s a good idea to bring a clean pair of panties, so you have something clean to wear after soaking in the baths.
• Massage and treatments are available for an extra fee.
Oedo Onsen Monogatari, 2-57 Aomi, Odaiba, Koto-ku, Tokyo, Hours: All days 11:00am – 9:00am (last entry 7:00am) Address in Japanese: 大江戸温泉物語, 東京都江東区青海2-6-3, 東京,