Onsen in Tokyo: Relaxing soaks in the city
Close your eyes and try and picture for yourself a Japanese hot spring or onsen (温泉). I imagine your first thoughts would likely be of a steaming bath channeled by flowing spring water, surrounded by large and immaculately arranged rocks and bamboo walls, set against a backdrop of lush nature or perhaps even distant mountain ranges. Surely, there would be no way you would be able to have such a quintessential hot spring experience within the bustling concrete jungle of Tokyo…
And that’s where you’re mistaken! Despite what most people would have you believe, it is entirely possible to go on a full-fledged yet relaxing multi-onsen tour without even leaving the boundaries of Tokyo!
Not all bathhouses are hot springs?
A typical sento would be mostly built with ceramic tiles and decorated with large retro murals. (Image credit: Soyoung Han / Unsplash)
Before embarking on your journey of cleanliness, here’s a bit of trivia about hot-spring culture in Tokyo. It is actually not particularly hard to find a public bathhouse in a Japanese city, in fact Tokyo is home to hundreds of such places. Most of these bathhouses, however, are classified as sento (銭湯 sentō), rather than the more prestigiously-defined onsen that we are all more familiar with. The main difference between these two is that while an onsen must by definition use naturally hot mineral water drawn straight from a spring or the ground, a sento can simply use hot water from anywhere.
Sento fulfils an integral role in their communities as a cheap place for people to bathe, hang out with their neighbours or relax after a hard day of work. While there are in fact many highly touted sento in Tokyo that tourists should check out, for this article we will be exclusively talking about the onsen of Tokyo, to capture that quintessential hot spring experience.
1. Oedo Onsen Monogatari
The main building stands out in an already theme park-like part of Tokyo. (Image credit: Dushan Hanuska / CC BY-SA 2.0)
We’ll start off this list with the most popular hot spring park in Tokyo by far, and one of my personal favourites recommendations of the city overall. Ōedo-Onsen Monogatari is an onsen theme park located on the island of Odaiba. The facility is mostly indoors, with the inside being a large-scale recreation of an Edo-era night festival—complete with carnival games, food courts and even a fortune teller! Visitors to the facility must change into a provided yukata after paying the entrance fee, and all purchases made within the complex are done so using a wristband (which collates your spending and you can make a final payment when you leave the park).
Oedo Onsen captures the vibe of a never-ending Japanese summer festival. (Image credit: Afiq / JR Times)
The onsen itself is made of natural hot spring water pumped up from deep underground, and the park boasts a total of 13 different types of special baths for visitors to choose from. The onsen facilities are separated by gender, but there is also a large open-air Japanese garden where everyone can mingle and enjoy footbaths, fish therapy, and bedrock baths.
Odaiba Ōedo-Onsen Monogatari (お台場 大江戸温泉物語)
Address: 2-6-3 Aomi, Koto-ku, Tokyo 135-0064
Nearest station: Telecom Center Station (テレコムセンター駅)
Opening hours: 11am–12am (Main Hours), 5am–9am (Morning Bath)
Admission fee (Weekdays): ¥2,768 (Adults), ¥2,218 (Children)
Admission fee (Weekends): ¥2,988 (Adults), ¥2,438 (Children)
Admission fee (Special Holidays): ¥3,098 (Adults), ¥2,548 (Children)
Tel: +81 3-5500-1126
Hint: For families and friends who really want to enjoy a mixed-bathing onsen experience, there is another branch of this park just outside of Tokyo called Oedo Onsen Monogatari Urayasu Mangekyo. Aside from also having many similar facilities to its Odaiba counterpart, this park also boasts an open-air mixed bath zone, where men and women can both enjoy different types of open-air onsen in swimsuits (which you can bring yourself or rent onsite!). Urayasu Mangekyo can be accessed from JR Shin-Urayasu Station via a free 10-minute shuttle bus.
Ōedo-Onsen Monogatari Urayasu Mangekyo (大江戸温泉物語 浦安万華郷)
Address: 7-3-12 Hinode, Urayasu-shi, Chiba 279-0013
Nearest station: Shin-Urayasu Station (新浦安駅)
Opening hours: 11am–12am
Admission fee (Weekdays): ¥1,888 (Adults), ¥858 (Children)
Admission fee (Weekends): ¥2,218 (Adults), ¥968 (Children)
Admission fee (Special Holidays): ¥2,548 (Adults), ¥1,078 (Children)
Tel: +81 47-304-4126
2. Somei Onsen Sakura
(Image credit: photoAC)
A secret oasis tucked away in the suburbs of Tokyo, Somei Onsen Sakura is a day-spa and restaurant located a short 10 minute walk from JR Sugamo Station. This sleek yet traditional complex is beautifully constructed, feeling a lot more like a luxury ryokan rather than a bathhouse. Alongside a variety of both indoor and outdoor baths, this facility boasts a restaurant, beauty salon, Japanese garden, lounge and massage services, making it a complete all-in-one Spa Day getaway package.
The name Somei Onsen Sakura also isn't just for show—this place is the home of multiple Yoshino Somei cherry blossom trees which are planted throughout its gardens, making it a perfect place to visit during springtime! Watch this video to access the place via walking from JR Sugamo Station.
Tokyo Somei Onsen Sakura (東京染井温泉 SAKURA)
Address: 5-4-24 Komagome, Toshima-ku, Tokyo 170-0003
Nearest station: Sugamo Station (巣鴨駅)
Opening hours: 10am–11pm
Admission fee: ¥1,320 (Adults), ¥770 (Children)
Tel: +81 35-907-5566
3. Toshimaen Niwa no Yu
Next up is an onsen that will make you feel like you’re a thousand miles from the bustle of Tokyo. Located right next to the former Toshimaen Amusement Park, Niwa no Yu is another hot spring complex packed with several different types of baths and spa facilities. Boosted with mineral-rich spring water drawn from 1,445m underground, you’ll want to be sure to take advantage of the beautiful surroundings of this facility by trying one of their many outdoor baths.
(Image credit: photoAC)
Niwa no Yu in particular is especially committed to harnessing the beauty of nature to accentuate your hot spring experience. Thanks to the tranquil ambience provided by the lush greenery and architecture of its massive Japanese garden, you will truly forget that you’re right in the middle of the busiest city in the world as you spend your day here. This facility also houses a Bade Pool—an European-style hydrotherapy bath set at the temperature of the human body and perfect for underwater stretching and massaging. You’ll need to put on swimming attire to use this pool, so friends and family are free to enjoy it together!
Toshimaen Niwa-no-Yu (豊島園 庭の湯)
Address: 3-25-1 Koyama, Nerima-ku, Tokyo 176-8531
Nearest station: Nerima Station (練馬駅)
Opening hours: 10am–11pm
Admission fee: ¥2,070 (Weekdays), ¥2,370 (Weekends), ¥2,470 (Special Holidays)
Tel: +81 33-990-4126
Note: Children under the age of 13 are not permitted to enter the facility.
Whether it be due to time or budget constraints, there’s now no reason you shouldn’t be able to get an authentic onsen experience during your next trip to Tokyo City!
Header image credit: photoAC