Fall and winter in Japan are notorious for having the best weather for enjoying the natural hot springs, or “温泉“ (onsen). People from across Japan travel to their nearest hot springs and take part in this timeless custom of relaxing in nature’s baths.
Traditionally, the Japanese style of enjoying these onsen are through “裸の付き合い“ (hadaka no tsukiai) or loosely translated, “naked socializing.” This process is very strange to some foreigners who have never bathed naked publicly before; but to the Japanese, it’s not even questioned as out of the ordinary. Most onsen that you will find throughout Japan allow and even require this practice of enjoying same-sex hot springs without clothing.
However, there is one onsen in particular that gives everyone the opportunity to join in together, without having to take part in hadaka no tsukiai. Yunessun Hot Springs Resort and Spa offers clothed or non-clothed onsen, providing a relaxing environment regardless of your cultural background.
Yunessun Resort and Spa has a myriad of incredible hot springs to choose from, some of which actually include combining your favorite beverages with the onsen water! Visitors to the spa are free to walk around and enjoy each of the onsen at their own pace, all while under the awning of peaceful trees and waterfalls in this outdoor escape.
Missed your morning cup of coffee? Yunessun has you covered. Their house-brewed coffee is poured periodically throughout the day into the Coffee Hot Spring. You can relax in the center, or get a good bubble massage in the Jacuzzi style portion of this special caffeinated spring. They say you can feel the caffeine entering your body; you’ll have to see for yourself if it’s true.
Another very popular hot spring at Yunessun is the Red Wine Onsen. With a giant wine bottle and all, you really feel like you’re soaking in a huge bath of spirits. If you come to this one at the right times of day, you can get in on the “wine show,” which becomes the most memorable part of all.
A spa worker comes out to present their prized “Hakone wine;” and after much ado proceeds to spray it on all who are in the onsen! You can drink some from your hands as well, if they’re generous enough not to pour it on your head. It’s a great time for all, then it’s back to the relaxing when the shows over.
After you finish drinking and washing in wine, you can hop into the Ocha (Japanese green tea) Onsen to relax and take in the nature around you. This brightly colored hot spring is one of the most interesting, and is sure to give you your fill of green tea for the day.
There are also multiple options for children, both indoors and out. They include huge water jungle gyms and shallow water that’s safe and fun for all. In the winter some of these are closed, but the indoor options will always remain available.
The list goes on and on with sake, charcoal, orange peel, and even an onsen that is said to bring good luck. Each of these have their unique feel and environment, with some hotter than others and some under cover while most are only under the trees. In addition, one onsen is known as the “all natural,” with no treatment whatsoever; it only contains free-flowing water directly from the rocks around it. Most are treated to maintain cleanliness standards, but it’s hard to imagine you are anywhere but a natural paradise when visiting Yunessun.
Tips for your trip:
Parking: Around ¥1000 per day
Dress code: If you’re really comfortable with your body, try out the Japanese hadaka no tsukiai style at their Mori no Yu onsen. Otherwise, buy a ticket for Yunessun only and enjoy the hot springs mentioned above with bathing suits. Cotton/outside clothing is not allowed once you pass the locker rooms, bathing suits only.
They will ask for your shoes to be removed upon entering the premises (after buying your ticket). In addition, the locker room is an open area with the exception of toilet stalls. It may be a shock to some to see naked people of all ages in your locker room, but remember that some actually are going to Mori no Yu.
Tattoo policy: None are allowed. If you have tattoos, please cover them with either a rash guard or bathing suit before entering the premises.
Bracelets: After purchasing your ticket, you will be given an electronic waterproof bracelet. This is your key to your locker; don’t take it off! Find the corresponding locker number to your bracelet’s, and simple hold your wrist against the locker door to lock and unlock.
Gift shop and restaurant: Upon exiting the premises, you will walk through one of Hakone’s largest gift shops. They sell souvenirs of all kinds, including the famous black “hot spring egg” and other items local to the onsen area. In addition, a reasonably priced restaurant is located beside the gift shop as well. It’s recommended to eat here because of the lack of shops or combinis in the radius around this spa.
Lodging: Stay in the Kowakien Hotel right across the street. They have Western and Japanese-style rooms, with a buffet dinner and tickets to Yunessun included in their packages.
Access from Shinagawa:
Driving (my personal recommendation, because of the train/bus changes and switchbacks up the mountain): 1 hour 43 minutes. Expect minimal tolls once leaving the Tokyo area.
Shinkansen train to Kowakidani Station: 1 hour 30 minutes, ¥4390; Then proceed walking 18 minutes or take bus to Yunessun.
Train to Kowakidani Station: 2 hours 19 minutes, ¥1940; Then proceed walking 18 minutes or take bus to Yunessun.