Long-time readers of this blog know that soaking up to my neck in hot water is my happy place. But why restrict myself to pure water, when I could be soaking in hot green tea, sake, red wine or (my Utopia!)….freshly brewed black coffee? I visited Yunessun Spa Resort in Hakone to find out more about the supposed health benefits of bathing in each of these substances.
I never turn down an opportunity to soak in hot water – hot springs on the Mornington Peninsula, hot springs and mud baths in Nha Trang, Vietnam, a hot jacuzzi as part of the hamam experience in Istanbul… And Japan is filled to over-brimming with onsen (hot spring bath) experiences. But lowering myself into pure hot spring water seemed so boring and conservative once I found out about the experiences on offer at Yunessun Spa Resort in Hakone.
At this unique ‘hot springs amusement park’, you can soak in a range of liquids such as red wine, green tea, coffee, and sake, all (supposedly) in the name of health and well being. How could I resist?
So, while Queenie and The Poolboy headed off on the bus to the Gotemba Premium Outlets in search of a Year 12 formal dress, The Impossible Princess and I found our way via the Izu-Hakone bus to Yunessun Spa Resort.
The resort is split into two parts – the Yunessun Spa Resort (which is a swimsuit zone) and the more traditional Mori NO YU zone which is a naked space, with areas for women and men, consisting of onsen in the traditional Japanese style. You can buy all-day admission tickets for either zone, or a combined ticket which allows entry into both. We stuck to the swimsuit zone only.
Once you pay admission, you are given a waterproof digital wristband which not only acts as the key to your locker, it is also an electronic purse – any food, drinks, massage, Dr Fish spa pedicures etc that you choose while on the premises, can be paid for with your wristband, and then the account is settled as you leave.
Once we were changed into our swimsuits it was time to hit the pools.
First up, the freshly-brewed black coffee. That machine you can see at the back of the pool? It was a giant coffee percolator. I watched one of the staff fill a large coffee filter at the top with an entire sack of coffee beans. Once the coffee is brewed, it is released into the pool via a hose. The smell of this pool? Mmm-mmmm…
Soaking in coffee is said to aid fatigue, and rejuvenate the skin. The smell certainly perked me up…and had me looking for the nearest food outlet for a quick shot of espresso.
There are claims that soaking in red wine can aid everything from circulation to cellulite, and Yunessun claims that Cleopatra had a red wine bathing ritual. (But she’s also said to have bathed in honey, donkey’s milk, sour milk and saffron). All I know is that Cleopatra must have had a dud sense of smell, as The Impossible Princess and I decided the red wine pool smelled like bad farts. I don’t think keeping red wine at 36.6 degrees (C) is a good cellaring practice.
Soaking in sake is said to be able to remove freckles and age spots. Maybe I needed to stay in the pool a bit longer, as mine are all still here. And green tea? Well, green tea is supposed to detoxify and aid the immune system. Inside the pool was a giant, floating tea bag. And if all of the above failed to sort me out…there was the Dr.Ci:Labo Aqua-Collagen-Gel spa pools which promise “anti-aging ingredients to leave your skin more young, supple and improve skin elasticity”.
The water in these pools had the texture of watery moisturiser. I felt slimy, if not restored, when I got out. Apparently these particular pools change over on a regular basis, and have been chocolate and Yakult (a Japanese yoghurt health drink) in the past.
After all the dubious soaking, The Impossible Princess and I hit up the outdoor water slides.
At the top of the water slides was another pool, which we eventually worked out was wasabi-infused. I told The Impossible Princess to make sure she didn’t drink any!
This was such a fun day out. And in the end I concluded that the biggest health benefit of all this soaking is the relaxation and laughter that it induces.
Hakone Kowakien Yunessun: Hot Springs Amusement Park and Spa ResortAddress: Kowakien, Hakone (Opposite the Kowakien bustop on the Izu-Hakone bus route)
Website in English: www.yunessun.com
Telephone: +81 0460-82-4126
Admission prices: For the YUNESSUN (swim suit zone) only: Adult 2,800 Yen Child 1,500 Yen all-day pass
By bus: from Hakone Yumoto Station (or any stop along the way), you can take a Izu-Hakone Bus, (heading towards Moto-Hakone/Hakone-Machi or Kojiri/Hakone-en) Get off at Kowakien stop. From Hakone-yumoto to Kowakien takes about 30 minutes.
By train: Take the Hakone Tozan railway, get off at Kowakidani Station. From there is it is 20 minute walk to Yunessun.