Yumori no Sato is a day onsen located in the beautiful Jindaiji Motomachi area and is the perfect example that you don’t need to travel outside Tokyo for the traditional onsen experience. But what makes Yumori no Sato somewhere that people want to return to time and time again is its sense of homeliness.
From the outside the onsen looks like a backstreet storage depot, but step inside and the dark wooden entrance and warm lighting immediately put you at ease. Customers are given a bar code which is used for the many services (bedrock bath, massage service, etc.), with payment made at the reception when you leave. Not having to fish around in pockets for loose coins for the vending machine or lockers seems like a small thing, but its one of the minor touches that helps the onsen set itself apart from the other day onsen in the Tokyo area.
And then there’s the natural hot spring water: coffee-coloured in the palm of the hand, but from above the bath an inky jet-black. This type of water is actually quite common in the Tokyo area, but for first-timers it certainly makes for a memorable experience.
The bathing area consists of four main tubs (one inside, three outside) and a Goemon—a small pot named after the infamous outlaw Ishikawa Goemon who was boiled alive in one for his crimes! The temperature varies by bath, with one outside tub in the corner deliberately set to a lower temperature so you can soak for longer. There are a couple of benches outside on which you can rest and cool your body down. And there’s always the cold water tub if you really want to shock your senses back to life from their onsen-induced slumber.
The main tub outside has a Jacuzzi section and a small “Electric Cave” on the face of the stone wall at the far end of the bath—if you crouch and wade inside you will feel a pulsating frizzle on your skin! The other feature that separates Yumori no Sato from the rest is the sauna: it is heated by a traditional salt hearth called a shiogama which punctures the air with a crisp scent and certainly helps clear the airways.
Once you’ve relaxed in the baths there is a spacious rest area upstairs and a restaurant serving superb Japanese food at reasonable prices. If an hour or so in the baths followed by a beer don’t put you at ease then nothing will.