By Abi Barber
The Ooedo Onsen Monogatari is a lavish hot spring theme park on Odaiba. It is a great place for the uninitiated to first experience a Japanese hot spring bath, and is also a fun, special treat for people of all ages.
Opened in 2003, the Ooedo Onsen is much more than a bath house. Extravagantly decorated to transport customers to the Edo era, it has a large and charming entertainment area that is ideal for tourists, dates, family outings, and groups of any kind. While being a bit too expensive and crowded to become a regular onsen location for locals, the Ooedo Onsen is a great spot for a once-in-awhile treat.
This is also a perfect place for tourists and people who have never experienced an onsen before to get their feet wet, so to speak. A first public bath experience can be an uncomfortable experience for visitors from other countries. Let’s face it: “Is this where I get naked?” is not a question that lends itself to pantomime very well. However, there are many signs, pamphlets, and directions provided in English to explain the process from beginning to end.
The experience starts at check-in, where guests are given a locker key and can choose the design of their yukata (a thin, summer-style kimono).Then it’s off to the changing room to lock up your valuables and don the traditional Japanese robe (which comes with directions to put on). The changing rooms then lead to the main “courtyard,” an enormous area decorated to look like the Edo period of Japan. This is where men and women can meet up with each other and enjoy the entertainment. This common area is massive and contains everything from a food court and bar to carnival-style games and a souvenir shop. Shows occur sporadically, including comedy and music performances. This is all about atmosphere: the paper lanterns hanging overhead, the old-style architecture and paintings, the people in their beautiful yukata, the tatami mat areas to relax or eat on.
There is a co-ed outdoor foot bath area, with many shallow pools spread through a traditional Japanese garden. This area is beautiful and relaxing, and can be enjoyed even in cold or rainy weather (there are umbrellas as well as heavier coats provided to wear on top of your yukata). For an additional fee, there is even a foot bath filled with small fish that will nibble the dead skin off your feet, leaving them smooth and soft.
Of course, the main attraction is the hot springs themselves. Men and women separate here and enter another locker room where you store your yukata and receive towels (which are provided). Then, into the bath area itself. The bath room is a blend of traditional and modern design, and features numerous different baths at different water temperatures, and several baths with massage jets. There are two main baths that are 100% natural, with water piped directly in from underground hot springs. There is also an outdoor bath area with a beautiful natural design and two hot springs, one covered with an overhead roof for rainy days. The bath areas are relaxing, immaculate, and well maintained.
After soaking, guests can return to the courtyard area and enjoy a wide range of additional features, such as a tatami relaxation room and a variety of massage services available at an additional cost. Also available for an additional fee are sand baths and rock slab baths. There are even accommodations to spend the night.
As a culture note, it is perfectly normal in Japan for children to accompany parents of either sex into the bathing areas. Whether or not you choose to expose your own kids to a room full of adult body parts different from their own is a decision to make based on your own values, of course, but do not be surprised to see a young girl accompanied by her father in the men’s baths, and vice versa.
Also note that, as with most onsen in Japan, people with tattoos are not admitted.
The Ooedo Onsen is a 2 minute walk from the South Exit of Telecom Center Station on the entertaining Yurikamome line. There are discount rates available for evening (after 6pm) and morning (5-9am) customers.
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