October 2021. In our Grand Scheme of Travels, Danny and I had planned to be in Japan with Michel. Quod non. So let’s go back to March and April 2013, when my sister Florence, her husband Kenneth, my nephew Leo and my niece Isaline travelled to Tokyo, Hakone and Kyoto. The classic intro to Nippon and a golden opportunity. I grew up with anime such as ‘Dragon Ball‘ and ‘Saint Seiya‘ on television and Japan had been on my wish list since I was little. There’s a lot I don’t remember. But thanks to photos on Facebook, my guidebook and check-ins on Swarm (Foursquare), I can reconstruct parts of that trip.
Hakone is a onsen (bathhouse) resort town. We stayed at Hakone Yumoto Onsen Tenseien. Again, I have very few photos. But this promotional video of the resort gives you an idea.
Looking at the footage, I remember very well. Heaps of beige. Almost an airport executive lounge vibe.
The website states some ground rules and we were confronted with rule number one immediately. Taking off shoes.
Inside the hotel, everyone is required to take off their shoes and go barefoot or in stocking feet. (Please refrain from using slippers and similar footwear.)
Entrance by those with tattoos or tattoo-like seals, are associated with organized crime gangs, or in an inebriated state is strictly prohibited.
Minors 18 years or younger are also not accepted for accommodation or the Day Trip Plan. They are asked to be accompanied by a guardian.
Infants who cannot be without diapers are not permitted in the large baths.
Students of grade three elementary school age or older must use the Large Bath specifically for their gender.
Bringing in food and beverages is strictly prohibited.
The other shoes weren’t an issue for us. But they might for you. More and more people have tattoos. But tattoos are not universally appreciated in Japan.
Onsen are hot springs. But bathhouses can be very functional, to wash, shave, groom etc. Then the correct term is sento.
Or they can be for relaxation. A natural onsen caters more the latter. I love my bath at home so I love baths elsewhere.
So we donned our yukata – robe – and went for it. The serenity of an onsen is so relaxing. Public onsen are non-sexual. Sexes are separated and obviously homosexuality exists in Japan and there are gay onsen, but it’s not the prevalent vibe. I’m not sure the Japanese even think of that possibility.
After a long session in the onsen, we went for a wonderful dinner. In our yukata. Nowadays it could be seen als ‘cultural appropriation’, but it felt right at the time and place.
I love the onsen / sento experience. I descbrided it in 2018.
To this day, I regret not having gone for a session in the middle of the night. Who knows what happens then which can’t see daylight?
But I didn’t. I don’t know why. So I went in the morning instead of using the bathroom in the room.
I definitely will go to onsen or sento when I’m back in Japan.
2013 Japan Family Trip
- JAPAN 2013 | Solo in Tokyo.
- JAPAN 2013 | Tokyo ft. Ueno Park and the Shibuya Crossing.
- JAPAN 2013 | Tokyo ft. Sensō-ji, Hamarikyu Gardens and the Imperial Palace East Gardens.
- JAPAN 2013 | Meiji Shrine and Harakuju in Tokyo.
- JAPAN 2013 | Tokyo ft. Tsukiji Fish Market, Ginza, Zōjō-ji Temple, Tokyo Tower and traditional restaurant Jomon in Roppongi.
- JAPAN 2013 | Tokyo – Hakone by train.
- JAPAN 2013 | Hakone Yumoto – Lake Ashi – Owakudani.