I got back from the club today at about 9am. I was about to go to sleep, when I noticed that a school club was doing a trip out to an onsen (hot spring) in Chiba. I knew I needed the sleep, especially since I had a party with former LC exchange students planned for tonight, but I had never been to a Japanese onsen before, so I figured I should let my sleep wait and go for it.
Thank god! Today may have been the most relaxing day I've had in Japan to date. The onsen we went to was practically a resort- there were all sorts of different tubs, baths, and saunas, as well as eateries, games, massage parlors, and a genius "relax room" with reclining lounge chairs and TV's.
We started out by leaving our stuff in our lockers (they give you a waterproof wristband that doubles as a locker key and a payment method so you don't have to carry cash), and going to the men's onsen.
You wash up well before you go in the baths, and they had some pretty crazy black (charcoal-infused, I think) shampoo and body wash. They also had shaving foam, but I wish I had brought a real razor- the plastic disposable ones they had ate my face.
After you're all clean, it's time for the baths. The basic form of the onsen is get in one bath, grunt with your male compatriots about how it's hot and feels good, then when you're bored or burning up, you go to another one.
There were probably ten different baths, differing in temperature, depth, and minerals. The weirdest was a pink "コーラゲン" (collagen) tub- the color and luxuriating softness was amazing, but also, we decided, a little on the emasculating side. There were pools to lie in and pools only a few inches thick, some as warm as a bathtub and some absolutely scalding. There were also some incredibly hot, humid saunas, just short of 90 degrees Celsius. Sweating like a pig and then dunking in the cold pool right outside makes your heart race spectacularly.
Everybody enters the sex-segregated bathhouses in the buff, but there's also a co-ed swimsuit area outdoors, and we headed there afterwards to hang out with the girls. There were some very cool baths there- one that made thick layers of bubbles appear on your skin, one with a walk-through cave, and another in a sort of steam house, with scalding water and a high tendancy to echo.
After you've had enough hot water, you rinse off, toss on a yukata (a casual, cotton, unisex kimono), and hang out inside. We played ping-pong, took some puri-kura, and made a visit to the relax room, where you can watch a personal TV (and likely doze off) in a huge, leather recliner.
If you're interested in an Onsen near Tokyo, I really recommend this place, Yumemurinangekyo. There's a free shuttle from Urayasu station on the Tozai line (or Shin-Urayasu if you take JR), and it's about 400 yen cheaper, and supposedly more spacious, than the one in Odaiba.
Due to the whole nudity/walking around in just a robe with no bag factor, no real photos for this episode