By : Holden Walker
One of Japan’s oldest traditions is the use of onsens. Onsens are what English speakers would generally call hot-springs, referring to naturally occurring pools of water which are heated by magma. Although, these pools can also be man-made. For centuries, soaking in an onsen has been a part of a popular Japanese health and beauty routine. Many onsens or bathhouses are located across Japan. However, my favourite one to read about is Yunessun.
Yunessun combines the traditional Japanese onsen with a more westernised version which is safe for families and offers a water amusement park aspect to it. The park is most famous for its more outlandish baths as well as its seasonal special event ones. The park is easy to get to and is a reasonable day out for most tourists who want to experience this side of Japanese culture. The city of Hakone, where Yunessun is located is just an hour south-west of Tokyo, or alternatively forty minutes if you take a bullet train.
Once in Hakone, you can take a bus up the mountains where you will soon arrive at Yunessun, a multi-storey building with its own gift shop and restaurant. Level four is where the fun begins for this is where you book in. The park is separated into two areas. The outside area referred to as ‘The Naked Area’ is where the traditional onsens are (and yes swimsuits are famously banned from all traditional onsens.) It is separated into a men’s and women’s sections where participants can endure the onsen experience. This area consists of an inside pool of about twelve inches of water as well as an outside lagoon which is slightly deeper. There are also personal porcelain bowls for you to sit in if you are uncomfortable bathing with others.
There is also a green tea bath in this area which allows bathers to soak in (you guessed it) green tea. Green tea baths are proven to be beneficial for your skin for they not only help fight acne and shrink your pores but also promotes anti-ageing. Sometimes, a collagen bath may also be available. This bath improves skin elasticity, has anti-ageing compounds and encourages cell turnover. However, as far as I know, it is only a seasonal bath.
The biggest part of the complex is, of course, the inside area, where swimsuits are required. This area also has a collection of baths as well as the main pool named ‘The God’s Aegean Pool’ which is nicely heated, much like a bath would be. This is the main attraction for children visiting the park for it is well supervised, not too hot and not too deep. However, for those without children, you can safely give it a miss without guilt. The next major thing you may wish to check out is Doctor Fish’s Foot Bath. You may have heard of the famous Gurra Roofa fish, also known as the Turkish Toothless fish. These fish, for one reason or another love you eat dead human skin. You can book a ten-minute time slot to allow the fish to eat at your feet and remove any dead skill and/or cells. It reportedly does not hurt at all, for the fish suck at your skin rather than bite or nibble. Although possibly a little unpleasant depending on how ticklish you are, the foot bath will leave your feet silky smooth.
Once your feet are dead-skin free, you can fee to explore the rest of the park. Inside, there are many speciality baths you can try. One of the smaller baths is the Sake bath, sake being a Japanese rice wine. The sake helps to exfoliate your skin and lighten dark spots like freckles or sun spots. Bathing in sake is an ancient geisha skin care secret and is thought to give your skin a glowing look. The two major baths are the coffee bath and the red wine bath, both of which have pouring sessions at certain times of the day. These sessions allow bathers to taste the wine and coffee before it is poured into the bath, for once the liquid is in the bath, it is highly recommended not to consume it. The benefits of the coffee bath are first and foremost that it energises you. The caffeine in the coffee helps combat fatigue but also helps skin irritation and puffiness. The antioxidants in the coffee also help detox your skin. The red wine baths also have anti-ageing and antioxidant compounds.
Outside, the waterpark element of the resort is prominent, with a kid’s outdoor area and waterslides. Alternatively, there is also an observation pool a little higher up which serves as a nice place to sit and take in the stunning views of Hakone. In the winter, see the snow-capped mountains, in summer, see the lush green overgrowth of mountainous Japan. Once you have decided to conclude your onsen experience, you may slip into a robe and head off to a buffet lunch. You can also partake in a water aerobics class before catching the bus back down the mountain.
Yunessun encompasses everything people love about Japan into one multi-purpose complex. The traditional culture, the food and drink, the stunning natural beauty and the experimental and sometimes bizarre Japanese take on culture. The relaxing onsen baths, the breathtaking view and the absurdity of some of their speciality baths make Yunessun a location I want to visit. I essence, Yunessun, Hakone is one of my many bucket list locations.