Is there a better way to relax than going to an onsen, or hot spring? I think there isn’t, so I packed my bag and took the train to the outskirts of Tokyo and went to Yukemuri no Sato, a natural onsen.
When you enter the building, you'll notice it's not designed for foreign tourists-this is the real thing! That means it has a rich traditional appeal and there's nothing written in English, so if you're not familiar with Japanese baths you may find it easier to go with someone you know or ask the friendly staff for guidance. In either case, read on and I'll walk you through this beautiful bathhouse.
You can either try to get an entry ticket yourself from the vending machine or ask someone kindly. A normal ticket for a bath only is ¥750 on weekdays and ¥850 on weekends and public holidays. The surga, or stone bath, is an additional ¥700. When you've passed the test of getting a ticket, you can enter the changing room. The red curtain is for females, the blue one for males.
Now it’s time to get ready: take off your clothes and take a towel with you since it's customary to cover one’s nudity a bit by holding a small towel while one walks around in the onsen. Don’t forget to wash before entering the immaculately clean bath water. For a detailed overview on how to bathe in an onsen you should read this guide.
Yukemuri no Sato has three baths outside and four inside with different temperatures. And there's one special bath right next to the entrance: an electric bath! I recommend that you try it, though it's really strange in the beginning and definitely something you have to get used to. There are chair-like seats in the bath with electrodes on each side. If you sit down, you'll get electric shocks under water that go through your thighs and bottom. There's a sign in Japanese that kindly asks you to be silent - and it took a lot of effort for me to do so! I had no idea how the Japanese woman next to me could sit there all relaxed. She obviously had a lot of fun observing me and asked me how I liked it. It doesn't really hurt, but it is a very strange feeling as your legs shake because of the shocks. I sat there for about three minutes and it is recommended to not overdo it. After ten minutes you should give your body a rest.
Yukemuri no Sato has also a Finnish style dry sauna and a hot steam sauna. In the latter one you'll find mineral salt you can use for free. Rub it on your skin and make it smooth as silk. The minerals will enter your pores while you're sweating. In the surga you'll find six different kinds of hot stones you can lie on and relax. The room temperature is about 40 °C to 43 °C and the stone beds are made from minerals, such as halite and black germanium.
After the sauna, stone bath and (electric) onsen you'll probably be hungry. Again, the ticket machines are in Japanese only, but just ask someone or get yourself a surprise meal! They have small snacks (such as fries and gyoza) for ¥350-¥450 and dishes (for example curry rice and udon) for ¥800-¥1000. Tea and water is for free and you should definitely have some to keep your body hydrated!
Yukemuri no Sato is a chain with three onsen located in Sengawa, Miyamaedaira and Susukino. They differ a little bit in price, but basically offer the same. A fourth one is under construction in Tsunashima, near Yokohama, but not open yet.
To get to Yukemuri no Sato in Sengawa you take the Keio Line out of Shinjuku. It takes about 20 minutes and then another ten minutes on foot until your reach the place of total relaxation.