Steam up and chill out in these searing hot Tokyo baths
Soaking in onsens, or hot springs, is a quintessential Japanese experience, and while Tokyo springs may not come on top of connoisseurs’ rankings, they still have are plenty of onsens in the capital that we’d gladly spend a day splashing around in.
Had it not been for the free WiFi and TV sets, visitors to the delightfully rustic Sadachiyo ryokan would think they’re stuck in an Edo-era time warp. The staff shuffles by in kimonos, and the decor looks like a set for a Japanese samurai soap opera. Sadachiyo offers two onsens, one crafted with Japanese cypress wood and the other in black granite.
2-20-1 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo. Tel: +81 (0)3 3842 6431
Read more about Sadachiyo and other top hotels in Tokyo.
Yukari Onsen is the Japanese equivalent of sweating it out at the gym at lunchtime. A mere 20 minutes away from downtown Shinjuko on the Keio Line, Yukari Onsen has 12 types of indoor and open-air hot spring baths, including an “anti-aging” men’s bath and a women’s soak that is supposed to boost respiratory health.
2-12-2 Jindaiji Motomachi, Chofu, Tokyo. Tel: +81 (0) 42 499 7777
Oedo Onsen Monogatari
Leave it to the Japanese to come up with a hot spring theme park.
The baths at Oedo Onsen Monogatari are flanked by ersatz traditional Japanese game booths, shops and restaurants. But gimmicks aside, Oedo Onsen Monogatari takes its onsens seriously as well, with okerburo (individual barrels) and sunaburo (sand baths) for women, as well as a fishy foot bath and herbal soaks in a large communal garden.
2-57 Aomi, Koto-ku, Tokyo. Tel: +81 (0) 3 5500 1126
Niwa no Yu
Those who think the traditional onsen experience is too monotonous will find gratification at Niwa no Yu. On top of a massive central pool that is for both genders, the complex also has outdoor Jacuzzis, Finnish saunas, aromatherapy treatments, and a restaurant. The venue also has recliners with inbuilt TV sets and masseurs at guests’ beck and call.
Niwa no Yu also offers discounts for late-night entries.
3-25-1 Koyama, Nerima-ku, Tokyo. Tel: +81 (0) 3 3990 4126
Four Seasons Chinzan-so
Onsens don’t come more highfalutin than the ones at Four Seasons Chinzan-so Yu Spa. The ritzy spa has an onsen with water from the Izu province, as well as a pool with a retractable roof and wasabi scrub treatments. The hotel is set in a 130-year-old historical temple and is decorated in lavish Rococo style.
10-8 Sekiguchi 2-chome, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo. Tel: +81 (0) 3 3943 2222
Sento, or Japanese public baths, are fast disappearing from Tokyo because most households are now fitted with deep bathtubs, which eradicates the need for ritualistic public bathing. But despite the decline of the sento culture, these two Tokyo public baths are clinging on with endearing tenacity.
The main baths are coated in mineral deposits, locker hinges are rusty and the Zen gardens overgrown, but Shimizu-Yu in Sangenjaya stops short of being archaic. This public bath, which has been run by the Ito family since 1922, is kept immaculate and, as proprietors describe it, “very very hot.”
5-28-5 Taishido, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo. Tel: +81 (0) 3414 4964
Despite all the doomsday talk, the atmospheric Daikoku-Yu remains popular among locals. The sento has four baths, including an outdoor bathing area, and has an interestingly mixed clientele -- yakuza mobsters are said to mix with local grannies.
32-6 Senju Kotobuki-cho, Adachi-ku. Tel: +81 (0)3 3881 3001Read more about Tokyo's best public baths.