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Sunday, April 30, 2006

For Golden Week this year, go to a spa and stay close to home


Staff writer

Golden Week may have arrived, but that doesn't mean everyone has elaborate travel plans -- some may be too busy, while others hate the crowds and shun the absurdly expensive air tickets during the holiday season.

News photo
Yumeguri Mangekyo, a new hot spa facility in Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture, features a Taisho Period-style interior.

People who fall into this category and still want some rest and relaxation have the option of hopping over to one or more of the various spa facilities that recently have opened or been renovated in urban areas.

These facilities are now aiming to bring in women and families amid intensifying competition. The result -- comprehensive spas and hot spring facilities right in your neighborhood.

One of the largest hot spring facilities in Japan, Yumeguri Mangekyo (Web site www.yumegurimangekyo.com/index.html , phone (047) 304-4126), opened Feb. 25 in Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture.

It boasts 38 kinds of spa tubs as well as rooms were guests can stay the night, 10 restaurants, massage rooms, Japanese-style party rooms and dozens of relaxation chairs each equipped with a TV unit.

One feature is a huge open-air space with 12 different spa tubs, where visitors wear swimming suits so men and women can bathe together.

Visitors are asked to wear rental "yukata" light cotton kimono inside the building. Non-Japanese visitors may also find interesting the building's interior, which has a nostalgic Taisho Period (1912-1926) motif.

The entrance fee of 2,650 yen for holidays and weekends may seem a bit steep, but it's good for the whole day and the facility is open from 11 a.m. to 9 a.m. A shuttle bus is available from JR Shinurayasu Station on the Keiyo Line.

Oedo Onsen Monogatari ( www.ooedoonsen.jp/index.html , (03) 5500-1126) is another popular hot spring facility for Tokyo residents, located in the middle of the popular Odaiba waterfront area of Koto Ward.

Last weekend, the facility opened a new foot bath with "Doctor Fish" -- Garra rufa fish used in spas in Turkey for skin treatment as they suck on human flesh and nibble at dead or disease-affected skin.

The fish, which can survive in water of up to around 37 degrees, softly touch and massage bathers and help them relax. The regular price of 1,575 yen for a 15-minute foot bath with the fish is discounted to 1,050 yen until May 31.

Shiespa ( www.shiespa.com, phone (03) 3477-2100) is a new hot spring spa facility exclusively for women age 18 and older that opened in January near the heart of Tokyo's Shibuya district.

All nine of the building's floors are off-limits to men. All employees who deal with customers are women, except for some of the cooks, and even customers who enter the building are asked to show an ID card with photo.

On the top floor there is an open-air natural hot spring. The building also has steam sauna, aesthetic treatment rooms and restaurants. The entrance fee is 2,880 yen.

LaQua ( www.tokyo-dome.co.jp/e/laqua/index.html , (03) 5800-9999), a complex in Bunkyo Ward combining spas, leisure attractions and shopping mall facilities, reopened Friday after a renovation ahead of Golden Week, with more facilities targeting female customers.

LaQua has added two new beauty treatment salons to bring the total to 11, and the number of relaxation chairs in the women-only section has been increased to 74, two dozen more than before.

A low-temperature sauna and another cool-temperature sauna room have also been added for its renewal opening. Within the same compound are the Tokyo Dome, a roller coaster and 60-meter Ferris wheel, and a fitness club.

If you live in the western suburbs of Tokyo, Musashino Yuraku ( www.tennen-yuraku.co.jp/ (0422) 52-1611) near JR Mitaka Station on the Chuo Line may be the place for you.

In addition to large open-air hot spring bathing, visitors can enjoy "bedrock bathing," a low-temperature sauna with rock beds that has recently become popular among young women.

Visitors lie down on a hot rock plate to sweat away their fatigue and relax, which the facility's operator says helps improve metabolism. According to the operator, the rock used, "hokutoseki," is a stone that emits a slight amount of radiation and is used for medical treatments.

A free shuttle bus departs from the North Exit of JR Mitaka Station.

In western Japan, the options include SpaWorld ( www.spaworld.co.jp , (06) 6631-0001) in Naniwa Ward, Osaka, which boasts both European and Asian-type baths.

The facility is near JR Shin-Imamiya Station. The tubs have been given such names as Atlantis, Finland, Spain, Persia, Bali and India, and are decorated in that motif.

During Golden Week it will hold special events such as lotteries in its main hall.

The Ikkyu Onsen ( www.onsen19.com , (06) 6467-1519) in Konohana Ward, Osaka, uses 100 percent natural hot spring water and has what operators say is a world's first -- an ultrafine particle mist sauna.

It is a one-minute walk from the Torishima 6-chome bus stop on municipal buses 56 or 59. A shuttle bus service is also available from Nishikujo Station on the JR Loop Line and the Hanshin Nishi-Osaka Line.

In Kobe, the Kinnoyu ( www.kcva.or.jp/kinyu , (078) 904-0680) in the famed Arima Onsen spa district is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and offers visitors the chance to bathe in the same hot spring waters used by the area's hotels and inns for 650 yen for adults.

In Kyoto, there is the Nizaemon no Yu, ( www.nizaemon.com , (075) 393-4500) in Sakyo Ward.

During Golden Week its bakery will have special bread baked with spring water.



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