Visiting Japanese bath is a must cultural (and relaxation) experience in Japan

My Visit to Odaiba Bath House in Tokyo

This is a guest post by my mom Anna who recently returned from her 2-week trip across Japan. She has enjoyed several cultural “experiences” on her trip (a tea ceremony, kimono fitting, gold leaf printing) – and she believes visiting traditional Japanese bath house should also be included as a must cultural experience in Japan.

 For an extensive list of Tokyo experiences, check out this Get Your Guide site.

I travelled to Japan in July of 2015.  It was definitely not the best month of the year to enjoy Japan because half of the trip it was raining and when it was not raining it was really hot (more than 100F).  But one experience I enjoyed regardless of the weather was the Japanese bath.  (In fact, I wonder what it would be like visiting the baths in the winter).

Most of these baths are fed from natural hot springs that can be found everywhere across the volcanic islands of Japan. I experienced Japanese baths both in hotels where we stayed on this trip and in a “stand alone” public facility.  (It is typical for a Japanese hotel to have a bath.) There were no thermal baths in Japan I did not like, but in this post I would like to share my experience visiting the Hot Springs Public Bath in Odaiba – large artificial island in Tokyo.

When you enter the Baths, first, you take off your shoes (as in many places you are visiting in Japan).  You then pay for the baths (about 2300 yen -$18) and any additional (optional) services, such as massages, peels etc. ( 300 yen and up).   Next, you choose a kimono (typical yukata robe) to wear in the baths and pick the towels.

You can see my choice of kimono here:

Visiting Japanese bath is a must cultural (and relaxation) experience in Japan

You leave your own clothes in the locker and take the locker key with you (to wear on your hand) while you are inside the baths.  After changing, I found myself in the big colorful hall – shopping “arcade”.  This area is shared by men and women (the pools area is gender-separate). There are many restaurants and stalls inside.  You can hear Japanese music and there are a lot of locals around. Most of the tables in this area are seat-on-your-knees Japanese tables, but you can find Western type tables as well. Free green tea is served everywhere, which is nice.   Since you are dressed (in kimono) in this area, pictures are allowed.

Visiting Japanese bath is a must cultural (and relaxation) experience in Japan

I found the price of food in the Bath very reasonable. You can enjoy the food before or after the bath (or both, as I did).

And then I crossed into the “cleansing” sanctuary.  There was a huge indoor-outdoor gender-separate bathing area (no camera allowed) and also a beautifully arranged outdoor relaxation space (which I especially welcomed after an exhausting day touring around Tokyo.)

There were  additional small lockers to store your things in the bathing area- as well as locked boxes for valuables. You must shower naked before entering the pools.  This is a non-negotiable part of local culture.  I saw some people keeping a small towel in front of the body when moving between the showers and the pools, but in the pools they definitely take them off.  So, after you are all washed, it’s time to walk to the thermal pools.  There are 14 spa pools (and barrels) in Odaiba Baths, all with varying water temperatures (from 36C to 42C). (In some hotel baths I visited, there were just 3 spa pools, but the cold water pool is everywhere).

The baths are usually not deep (up to your belly) and have a sitting board inside. I took this picture in one of the hotel spas – to give you an idea of a typical Japanese thermal pool (some are larger).

Visiting Japanese bath is a must cultural (and relaxation) experience in Japan
A typical hotel spa pool

Within the Odaiba Bath, you can also enjoy a steam room and a sauna. As an optional service, I tried the whole body peel.  After my 30 minute treatment (you can choose up to a 90 minute peeling experience) you have yourself a baby skin again!  And what a feeling to then relax in a fresh wood smelling barrel full of warm water in the open air! Believe me, it did not matter what the weather was like!

And when you think it cannot get any better,  you put on your kimono and go to the outside (shared)  area of the baths. You find yourself in a beautiful green zone – reflexology area.

Visiting Japanese bath is a must cultural (and relaxation) experience in Japan
Outside reflexology area of the Odaiba Bath

You can have a reflexology massage in a cabin (“extra”) or just walk through several shallow pools with the rocks on the bottom. Each pool has different size rocks- some are sharp and some are smooth; as you walk through, you are experiencing a “natural” reflexology massage. Some people can’t walk on the rocks because it hurts.  As for me, I found that I did not like to walk on the sharp rocks but I did enjoy the smooth rocks.

Visiting Japanese bath is a must cultural (and relaxation) experience in Japan
It does not matter what the weather is like when you are in the Japanese Bath house

In some hotels you can enjoy indoor/outdoor swimming pools after or before the bath experience (swimming cap and goggles are required).  In all the hotel spas I visited, I had a feeling that no detail was spared for a maximum rest and restoration (and comfort!) of the guests: from individual TV/computer screens to a fully stuffed “beauty” self-care room.

Visiting a bath while in Japan is a great way to relax for people of all ages and nationalities (most of the baths are child-friendly). They are also a big part of the Japanese culture, so a visit to the baths is both relaxing AND culturally enlightening!  My advice: don’t leave Japan without this experience!  Now as I am remembering my Japanese trip, I wish that I have spent more time in the Japanese baths.

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20 thoughts on “My Visit to Odaiba Bath House in Tokyo”

  1. Onsen is such a great part of the Japan experience for visitors! I had read about the Odaiba Baths…but didn’t make it there when we were in Tokyo. Looks like I missed out! We did have several other onsen experiences though, including the Yunessun Spa Resort in Hakone, where we soaked in coffee, sake and red wine! Thanks for sharing your experiences here, Anna!

  2. Thank you for sharing this interesting post, Anna. I’ve never visited Japan, but following your story it felt like I was there. It must be pretty annoying to be rained on in a country like Japan. I know there is a lot to see there. I love your choice of kimono.

  3. I love Japan! When I first went to Japan, I was a bit hesitant to try to public bath, since I come from a culture that doesn’t get naked in front of strangers. But a few days before I left for home, I finally tried it (it was during a little trip to Nikko) and I got hooked! It’s really a great experience.

    1. Victoria@celebratetheweekend

      I am glad you went for it, Liz! sometimes we need to get out of our comfort zone (especially when travelling!

  4. I would love to take the kids to an onsen when we go in October. I’m going to visit friends in Tokyo, and wasn’t sure if kids were allowed. Good to hear they are!

    1. Victoria@celebratetheweekend

      Might be a good idea to confirm ahead with the specific Baths you are going to, but Anna tells me she saw kids in all the bath she went to.

  5. I’ve never visited Japan, but when I do, I will definitely go to a bath, it sounds like a great experience. Sorry it rained so much, I know how annoying that is when you are on a trip!

  6. Please say “Thank you” to your mom for this informative post with great photos! I don’t know if we ever make it to Japan, so it’s great to at least read about it and see the photos. (And I love how your blog is including your whole family and their travels!)

  7. Victoria@celebratetheweekend

    Thanks so much, Jolanta! I like having my family participate in my “project”. They are often part of my adventures so this is a great feedback for me as a blogger and family travel planner.

  8. Great post! I am going to visit this gorgeous country next month. I want to ask you do you bring cash with yourself or use only your card? I have read a lot of different information. I am not sure what to do. Best regards!

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  10. I don’t know how did I found your post but it made me smile. I love Tokyo and japanese bath culture. You should try some Onsen lost in the mountains one day. It’s a good experience !

  11. Been to Japan 2 times already! Never been to a bathhouse (one reason is my small tattoo and did not have time to do the proper research; and second time due to the limited time and not a priority. But 3rd time I must try this experience!

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