In Hakone, there is a huge spa complex called Yunessun. Here, there are both swimsuits-on mixed-gender areas and swimsuits-off segregated areas. The segregated areas are much like any other onsen, with their indoor and outdoor baths for your naked enjoyment, but it is the mixed areas that are more interesting. There is a large indoor pool where families can play with their kids, several jacuzzis in Roman or Greek styles, a floatarium where you just lie on your back and float around in salty water and wish you had realized you had a cut before you got in, and also a place where you dip your feet into a pool full of little fish which come and nibble away at all the dead skin and whatnot. It’s ticklish and a bit odd and, in my case, a little bit disturbing to find that of all the dangling feet mine were by far the fishes’ favourite. I was virtually wearing live socks.
The outdoor mixed area is better still, for that is where they have the theme baths. They have the red wine bath (which I was extremely disappointed to discover wasn’t actually just filled with red wine, but rather winey smelling red water with a few token splashes of the real stuff), the green tea bath, the chocolate bath, the sake bath, the charcoal bath and the curry bath. Yes, the curry bath! Because that’s what you want to smell like after a good wash.
‘What’s your new girlfriend like?’
‘Who? Keiko? Oh she’s lovely. She smells just like a vindaloo!’
Still, as long as you go to the proper baths afterwards, it’s all good clean fun. And that’s what Yunessun is really – a great fun way to relax and get clean.
One piece of advice though – don’t wear baggy swimming shorts in the mixed baths. They tend to fill with air as you get in and that air then escapes with an enormous bubble. It gets you a less crowded bath, but it’s a bit embarrassing all the same.