Don’t knock the mock!

By on December 25, 2008
Photo © Elena Derevstova
The Oedo Onsen, Monogatari in Odaiba is one of the must-dos, lauded in guide books as a shining example of the eccentricities of Japan. Put your tourist trap prejudices aside and give the family a break. Sure there is enough faux Edo period paraphernalia to warrant the initial skepticism; a mock matsuri, an ever changing sky, and the occasional cast member in ‘authentic’ garb, but the Oedo onsen is the perfect combination of convenience and relaxation and a very real slice of contemporary onsen life. Oedo does away with the purist notion of Zen perfection and provides the ideal onsen experience for families who want simply to relax and enjoy themselves with the minimum of effort and the maximum pleasure.

No more ‘Romance cars’, just jump on the Yurikamome monorail or take the car over Rainbow Bridge and before you can say "Eureka!" you’ll be feeling the joys of the therapeutic water. Families in all shapes and sizes can be seen lazing around the complex, sprawled out in the restaurants, on the massage chairs, and in the gardens. You‘ll see the salary men puffing away in the smoking areas whilst the wives are busy searching for ‘omiyage‘ for their friends. Young couples walk hand in hand and kids roam the Edo-esque shopping mall; all as though they really are on holiday. There‘s nothing faux about the pleasure and relaxation being felt here.

Having checked in ‘hotel style’ to the Onsen, you are duly tagged, given a charge bracelet, and ushered towards the Yukata selection to find a suitably fitting design. Once you have chosen and handed out the hundred yens to the family for the coin lockers; off you go. Onsen purists be advised, keep these undergarments on when you change into your Yukata; going commando is to be saved for when you enter the bath area and not the shopping street.

As you pass from the changing rooms to the re creation of a traditional street from days gone by, the fantasy begins… well, almost. This glorified food court has 16 restaurants serving traditional fare at reasonable prices. There are games, shops, and old time amusement stalls all designed to charge up credits on your bracelets.  A variety of massage and healing treatments are available, sand baths, rock baths and a beauty salon is on hand. Everything is easy to book from the reception area outside the bath area.

A usual onsen trip with my rabble involves getting up at the crack of dawn in search of peace and ends up at best, trying to keep the peace. Not so here, all day admittance allows for a civilised arrival time, no resort traffic and best of all the freedom to actually stay and savour the hot water. Communal areas allow everyone to split up, the kids can wander around, buy their ice creams, visit the outdoor foot-spa whilst you soak away your aches and pains. It’s worry free, except for that nagging thought at the back of your head that you have just given the kids carte blanche to run amok in the shopping mall with their very own credit card strapped to their wrist.

Before you go running out though, let the soothing waters calm you. Despite the artificiality of your surroundings, the water is true natural hot spring water pumped from deep below the murky Tokyo Bay. There are 7 indoor and outdoor baths to tempt you, in the women’s and men’s segregated area, a cold plunge pool for  for those strong of mind and saunas galore. As if this wasn‘t enough, even the family pet can get in on the act. A doggie onsen annex allows you to leave your 4 legged companion to enjoy the same pleasures.

So don‘t knock the mock. Half close your eyes, ignore the overhead planes and you‘ll find the true onsen experience here, in the city.
Transfer to New Transit Yurikamome and get off at Telecom Center Station (18 min). Ooedo-Onsen-Monogatari is a 3-minute walk from the station.

General admission
Adults (12 and over): 2,900 yen
Children (4–11): 1,600 yen

Operating hours
Open from 11 a.m. to 9 a.m. of next morning (cut off time for admittance: 7 a.m.)

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