Hakone Kowakien Yunessun – Big kid fun outside Tokyo
Imagine bathing in a pool of sake, having buckets of it flung into your face while young people scream in glee around you.
You might be tempted to think this is some sort of foam party with a bunch of university students, but it’s actually one of the many quirky things that you will experience at Hakone Kowakien Yunessun, a short trip outside of Tokyo.
In the sake pool at Hakone Kawakien Yunessun!
Why visit Hakone Kowakien Yunessun
If you’re unfamiliar with Hakone Kowakien Yunessun, let me paint you a picture: it’s an aquatic playground (read water slides and outdoor hot springs), including pools filled with green tea, coffee, red wine, sake, etc. Yep, you read that right.
The town of Hakone is a famous tourist spot due to its natural hot springs. The Kowakien Yunessun (which includes the aquatic centre and nearby hotel) is located on a natural hot spring just outside of Hakone, and also has an amazing onsen, or traditional Japanese bath house that you can visit. But be warned, the onsen is not for the shy and prudish – onsens traditionally require you to be nude, albeit with a tiny white towel for a degree of modesty (what good is a tiny bit of cloth?).
Which one would you try?
Hakone and the Kowakien Yunessun make for a great day trip from Tokyo and show you a little more of the traditional side of Japanese culture than you might find in Shinjuku or other suburbs of Tokyo.
How to get to Hakone Kowakien Yunessun
There are various options to get to Hakone from Tokyo. For more information on your transport options to Hakone, check out this guide. We were based in Shinjuku during our trip to Japan, but these instructions will work from most stations in Tokyo with just a few amendments.
These waters slides look pretty tranquil, but we both worked up a fair amount of steam coming down!
Step 1 – Using our Japan rail pass, we took a JR fast train from Shinagawa to Odawara (free with the JR pass!) and then purchased a separate pass for the Odakyo Railway line to Hakone (a couple of hundred Yen from memory).
Step 2 – Congratulations, you’ve made it to Hakone! Finally, after stopping for a quick couple of (hundred) sushi rolls, we jumped on a bus winding its way up into the mountains to get to the Yunessun (the bus will stop right outside). All up, it’s about 2 hours of travel time, which is really just enough time to thoroughly check Facebook and post some of the previous days photos to Instagram… 🙂
Your other transport options include:
Option 2 – Fast route – for those willing to take a faster, more direct route, the Romance Car option could be the one for you. From Shinjuku station, you will catch an express train with a few limited stops to Hakone Yumoto station, which takes only 85 minutes and costs 2080 yen (not covered by JR Rail Pass). Then simply transfer to the Odakyu line and get the bus (i.e. follow step 2 above).
Overlooking the valley in the Yunessun’s famous hot springs
Relax in the hot springs…
Once you have had your fun in the sake, coffee, both red and green tea pools and maxxed out on the waterslides, head up the stairs to the natural hot springs which overlook the valley below. The hot springs have been visited by Japanese for centuries and when we were there, the springs themselves were practically deserted and we pretty much had them to ourselves.
The great thing about Kowakien Yunessun, is that you get to experience both the water park fun and relax in the hot springs, all in the one place. Be sure to also visit the Mori No Yu section of the main building – the traditional (read: naked) onsen which has several baths, pools and springs set in an amazing Japanese garden.
Note: Most Japanese onsens usually have a strict ‘no visible tattoos’ policy, and unfortunately this applies at Yunessun and Mori No Yu.
Hakone surprised us. It wasn’t just the way having a Japanese staff member spray a bucket of coffee water in our faces made us feel (yes, that really happened). No, it was far deeper than that. The Hakone Kawakien Yunessun has that perfect mix of fun and relaxation in both a modern and traditional setting. Enjoy!
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