Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Yunessun and Hakone

Trying to inject some non-Tokyokohama culture into the Germans' lives, we decided to visit Hakone for a smaller town vibe and a trip to the onsen. The hang-up was: cheaper beautiful old traditional onsen, sex separate, totally nudical; or more exciting, themepark-y coed swimsuit-wearing and considerably more expensive bathing complex?

The drive to Hakone from Yokohama is quite easy; taking the Tomei, it's only about an hour and a couple thousand yen in tolls, at least to Hakone-Yumoto, the location of many nice onsen. We bypassed the town and made for Ashinoko, the lovely lake from which Mt. Fuji can be seen on a nice day. Also the site of Hakone shrine and the floating torii, Cryptomeria avenue, the old Edo checkpoint, and most alluring: swan pedal boats.

Alas, it was not to be! The stupid swans are so expensive... 1500 yen for 30 minutes. You can't even get going before you have to come back and pay more. We comforted ourselves by choosing the more expensive spa and walking around the lake eating chestnut flavored soft cream. Fuji showed its ugly brown summer shoulders, and a breeze blew pleasantly over the water as we strolled over to the vermilion-red floating torii.

Yunessun is a sight to behold. It's very large - the parking lot extends for ages - and boasts 25+ different baths and attractions - a big tide pool, waterfall baths, baths of coffee, wine, sake, charcoal, tea, curry, and many more. There are even waterslides. Most interesting is the Dr. Fish bath, where flesh-eating fish nibble at the dead skin on your feet for an exfoliatory experience.

Massage is available for an extra fee, and the spa uses an electronic wristband system that you can swipe at various locations as a kind of credit card - grab a soda this way from a machine and pay for it at the end of your stay.

Don't forget to download the coupon on their website for 400 yen off, bringing the admission price down to 3100.

I greatly enjoy the traditional onsen, but this is really fun for a change and especially good if you're keen to go co-ed. Note: as with many onsen, they have a no-tattoo rule, but the girl at reception let us in after making I. promise to wear a tshirt that covered most of his upper-arm sleeves.

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