Friday, February 26, 2016

Experiencing Japanese Onsen

The peak of the winter season in New England makes me look back at one of our favorite experiences in Japan two years ago. It was a very random activity during our last trip in Japan that we decided to give Japanese onsen a try. Onsen is Japanese for hot springs and it's really part of the Japanese culture to go to these bath houses. At first, we were a bit worried having a four year old daughter at that time join us for this kind of activity but surprisingly, there were a lot of family activities inside the bath facility.  Needless to say, our daughter had a blast. On this post, we share our Japanese Onsen experience in Yokohama.

Yokohama | Japan | Chichi Mary Blog
View of Yokohama.  Picture via

Ideally, it is better to experience onsen in the country side.  I still remember when we went to the Mt Fuji/Hakone area few years back and there were a lot of other tourists who were looking specifically for the bath facilities around the area. Mary was only 1 and too young during that time and so, we couldn't try it. So when we came back to Tokyo after two years, we decided to try Japanese onsen and we searched for the most accessible places we could go to from Tokyo.

We chose to go to Yokohoma to try Yokohama Minatomirai Manyo Club, which was about a 30 minute train ride from Shibuya.  It was dual purpose for us because the bath facility is just in front of an amusement park called Yokohama Cosmoworld. I thought it would be very interesting because if Mary turned out to not enjoy onsen then, at least she had "her time" at the amusement park. As expected, Mary enjoyed the rides especially the Hello Kitty designed “car rides”.

We also took the ferris wheel ride which gave us a great view of Yokohama. If we had planned it earlier, we could have enjoyed even more activities like visiting different interesting museums like the cupnoodle museum (ramen museum), silk museum, sea paradise and many others  (See Yokohama activities).  

Ferris Wheel | Yokohama CosmoWorld | Japan | Chichi Mary Blog

View from Ferris Wheel | Yokohama CosmoWorld | Chichi Mary Blog
View from the ferris wheel.

Yokohama CosmoWorld | Japan | Chichi Mary Blog
Enjoying a Hello Kitty ride in the country of Hello Kitty.

After enjoying the amusement park, we went straight to the bath facility.  It is a multi-level spa house. We were first asked to wear kimono and slippers and it was fun choosing the kimono colors. Changing our outfits made us feel so relaxed even from the very start.

Our first activity was to dip our tired tourists’ feet at the Observation Foot Bath at the rooftop where we could see a beautiful view of  Yokohama's Minatomirai area and the Yokohama Bay Bridge.  For me, it was exciting to see the humongous Yokohoma ferris wheel where we first went.  It was still just the beginning of our spa experience but all of us were already having a great time.

Onsen| Yokohama | Chichi Mary Blog
Mary in one of her silly poses.

Obervation Foot Bath | Yokohama | Chichi Mary Blog
At the Observation Foot Bath.  This was a really magical moment -- a hot spring at your feet, ocean winds caressing your face, and your view dominated by a huge color-changing ferris wheel by the bay.

Obervation Foot Bath | Yokohama Minatomirai| Chichi Mary Blog

We were just thinking of enjoying the hot spring water, which was said to be transported by truck six times a day from Atami and Yugawara, spitting distance from Mt. Fuji.  But we were quite surprised that there were a lot of family activities that could be done inside the bath facility.  There were video arcades, play area for the kids, and restaurants inside the bath house.  We also had our dinner at the bath house.  But compared to the high standards of typical Japanese restaurants, the meal inside the bath house was not that impressive but there were still a lot of options.

Kids Play Area | Yokohama Minatomirai Manyo Club| Chichi Mary Blog
Mary enjoying the play area with humongous stuffed toys.

Play Area | Yokohama Minatomirai Manyo Club| Chichi Mary Blog

Lastly, the main event was to try the Japanese onsen.  We decided to have our own private family bath. Mary had so much fun playing while bathing and it was really funny how Mary reacted bathing in the flowing hot spring water but she totally enjoyed it.  It was not one of the most ideal situations since we had a 4 yr old daughter playing around but I could say that it was a great family experience.  I’ve also seen so many  Japanese kids inside the bath house, drinking cold milk after the massage (a Japanese ritual after onsen).

Entry Private Family Bath | Yokohama Minatomirai Manyo Club| Chichi Mary Blog

Hallway | Yokohama Minatomirai Manyo Club| Chichi Mary Blog
Hallway towards private baths.

Private Family Bath | Minatomirai Manyo Club| Japan Onsen | Chichi Mary Blog
Our private family bath with a beautiful water view.

Onsen | Minatomirai Manyo Club | Chichi Mary Blog
Of course, Mary could not help playing around.

Looking back, we should have stayed longer at Yokohama but being first timers, it was still a great experience!  It was not just about being relaxed and getting a massage but I think it was also a great teaching tool for Mary to learn and experience a different culture!



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