A Travellerspoint blog

Naked in the hot springs

Bullet trains, trains, taxi, pirate ship, bus, cable car and switchback train


We have used a hell of a lot of public transport today. Pretty much every kind of transport you can possibly use bar the batmobile. The bullet train was first and was incredible, taking us from Tokyo to Odawara at 300kph. It doesn’t feel like you’re going that fast and is a very comfortable journey. On arrival we got a taxi to our hotel to drop off the bags and headed back to the station to get a bus to Lake Ashi. From there we boarded a pirate ship (complete with a man dressed up as a pirate) and had a leisurely cruise across the lake. Finally we got another bus to Sounzan and a cable car up to Gora. Sound complicated? It did to us too but it is a lot easier than it sounds, particularly if you have a tour guide. Keiko, our guide, led us around the Hot Springs at Gora, pointed to roughly where Mt Fuji was (although as is normal she was hidden in the mist) and explained all about the area and even tempted many of us to try some black hard boiled eggs, which are believed to make you live seven years longer.


With everyone feeling more youthful, we headed back to the cable car and the journey down felt somewhat more adventurous. The mists had descended on the hillside and all we could see was about five feet of cable in front of us and every so often we’d feel the car drop as we hit a pylon. We had one more journey ahead of us to the hotel which was by switchback train. It’s pretty much a normal train but it zigzags down the side of the mountain by going backwards and forwards downhill. Finally when all the travelling was over we got back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.


The hotel we’re staying in is quite a traditional, shoes off, Japanese hotel and they offered guests the option to wear kimonos to dinner. Leaping at the chance, the girls were offered one of five different patterns, whilst the boys were supplied with the regular blue one. Rach picked a beautiful red cherryblossom kimono, whilst Alex looked very samurai-like in his. We hurried down to the all-you-can-eat buffet and nearly two hours later Alex was still shovelling the food down. They had such brilliant things to try and we both sampled a lot of the Japanese food.


Another reason Keiko had selected this hotel was for the Hot Spring spas that were available. She had explained the procedure for the springs which we will go over for you now. The spas are separated by sex; the men were on the seventh floor and the women on the sixth. You enter into the locker rooms where you strip naked (yes naked) and leave everything but your small towel. If you are feeling shy you hold it in front of you to just about cover the necessary areas, or if you’re us just wander around with it thrown over your shoulder like the locals. You then go through to the shower room where you sit down on a wooden stool and take the shower head in your hand. You shower like normal and shower gels and shampoos are provided. After you’ve cleansed yourself you can then head on to the pools. They have both inside and outdoor pools and they vary in temperature. Then you leave your towel by the side and bathe away.


We both got the hang of it straightaway and really enjoyed the experience. It was surprisingly not too embarrassing and we even chatted to some of the people on our tour in the tubs. We attempted the technique of switching from hot bath to cold and hot again although it makes you feel a little faint. One of the pools is shown in the picture above which we took from the hotel website and believe it or not it's not photoshopped, it really looks that nice. We had a brilliant time and will be heading back in again in the morn.

We have one last cultural experience of the day in our rooms. Instead of Western style beds we will be sleeping on Japanese style futons on the floor, which we’ve tested out and they feel surprisingly comfortable. We’ll keep you updated about our night tomorrow.

Rex’s Rules of the Road

  • If you want to try lots of different transport in the Hakone area, you can get the Hakone Free pass, which is a discount round-trip ticket and you can get a two day or three day ticket.
  • If you get the chance to experience Japanese style bathing don’t wuss out, it’s not as embarrassing as you may think and a truly relaxing, and unique, experience.

Posted by rexontheroad 22:49 Archived in Japan

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