Staying overnight at an Onsen was a fabulous use of my brief Tokyo layover, but I had a very hard time finding this information online. So I’m sharing the details in case others in the same situation want to consider this option.
The backstory: I booked a crazy cheap ticket to Malaysia and included in it what I originally thought was a 23 hour layover in Tokyo. It turns out I was in too big a rush to get the fare locked in and didn’t notice the time change that meant I only had a 13 hour layover. Still, 13 hours is enough time to get in a few good meals. I was scheduled to land at Haneda at 10:30pm and so I booked myself a capsule hostel and made a detailed plan of the places I would eat before heading to Narita for my 11:30am flight the next day.
Unfortunately my flight from LAX was delayed 3 hours, meaning I’d be arriving at the hostel super late and only have a few hours before it was time to start my morning food plan (the Tsujiki fish market starts serving food at 5am and the best places have long lines). Also there aren’t very many options for transportation out of Haneda airport after midnight. While waiting for my delayed flight I was doing some research on my options and asked a few friends for their input. Allen suggested I go to the Oeda Onsen and Esther (from DEMFlyers) chimed in that she loves that Onsen. I thought this was a joke. Who goes to an Onsen overnight? Especially one that’s also a “theme park”?
Well it turns out this Onsen is open all night. And lots of Japanese folks go for the night, even on a week night. I’m not really sure why: don’t they have work/school in the morning?!
It also turns out there there are just a few late night busses leaving from Haneda airport and one of them goes direct to this Onsen. So that settled it. Why pay for lodging when I could go relax in natural baths and kitchy entertainment. I figured I would sleep through the night (night time by U.S. time zones) on the airplane and then arrive wide awake in Japan ready to enjoy my 9 hour layover.
This actually worked out much better than I expected. I really did sleep on the airplane (thanks to a sleeping pill and a free upgrade to business class). And we landed with plenty of time for me to catch the 1:40am bus to the Onsen. After going through immigration in Tokyo you walk up to the only open bus ticket counter, and buy your bus ticket to the Oedo Onsen. It costs about $10.
Then you go outside to find the right bus stop. They will tell you it is bus number 6, but they really mean it is bus stop #6.
Then you enjoy the traffic-free ride to the city. Be sure to tell the driver you’re getting off at the Onsen. I don’t think they go to all the stops when there are only a few people on the bus, and they probably assume everyone is going to the main train station unless someone tells them otherwise. Don’t worry, when you get there it will be obvious. There’s an english language automated announcement on the bus naming the stops (the Onsen will be either the first or second stop).
It’s a little creepy and deserted when you get off the bus. And there’s a moment when you walk up to the doors and they take a few seconds to open, when I thought maybe the Onsen was closed and I’d be stuck outside with no public transit for the night. But the doors do open. When you go inside you will leave your shoes in a cute little locker on the left (and take the key) and then go up to the main counter.
There they’ll probably have at least one person who speaks some English. I think they had to wake up that guy for me, he appeared looking very disheveled after my failed attempt to communicate with the other folks at the desk. He explained the prices: It’s 2,072 yen for admission but there is a 2,160 yen surcharge for staying past 2am. Of course it was already past 2am so I had to pay the surcharge. You don’t pay when you arrive. They just check you in and give you a key on a bracelet which will track all your expenses and then you pay when you leave. There are added services like massages that you can get inside.
You then proceed to the next window to pick out a Yakuta. You have to select a style, size, and sash color. And then they send you into the changing room to put it on. Your key has a locker number on it. And the changing room lockers are big enough to fit a carry on suitcase. If your suitcase is bigger than these lockers you can pay extra for a larger locker outside of the changing room.
The Yakuta itself it easy enough to put on (you keep your underwear on underneath), but the sash wasn’t entirely obvious to me so I went back out to the front desk for help. The woman there showed me how to tie it properly. Then I headed out to the main Onsen area. You can take your phone or a purse/bag with you. There are actually some things that you might want coins for (games, massage chairs), and they have wifi. I just carried my phone out with me.
At 2am a lot of the features of the Onsen are closed. The food stalls stop serving at midnight, and the outdoor pools were also closed. But there is free hot/cold tea, a game room area, lots of places to sit and hang out, a room with reclining comfy chairs and TVs, and of course the indoor bath area.
After exploring the place thoroughly I was ready for the baths. These are gender segregated. First you go into the changing room and take a large and a small towel and pick a locker. In the locker you leave all your clothes and anything else you brought with you (i.e. your phone). They tell you to only take the small towel into the baths, though I saw some people with their large towels in there. Definitely take the small one so you have something to sit on in the sauna and steam rooms.
After you leave the changing room (naked), you shower before entering the baths. Clean yourself off! Then you can go into baths of varying temperatures and features. There is a cold bath, multiple hot baths, a bath with micro bubbles and one with strong bubbles. And there are also sauna and steam rooms. I’m not much of a water person, so I only stayed in there for about 30 or 40 minutes. At 3am there were only a few other women enjoying the baths and I even had the room to myself for part of the time.
When you are done you go over to the seated showers and you can have a full wash. Soap and shampoo are supplied. I felt thoroughly refreshed and clean by the end of my bath time. You head into the changing room to put your Yakuta back on, and they have nice mirrored seats with hair dryers, lotion, and even sanitized brushes. You can also purchase various beauty supplies from the attendants.
After the baths I was ready for a rest so I headed upstairs to the rooms with comfy chairs and personal TVs. There’s a big room for both men and women and a smaller room for women only. There were a surprising number of folks sleeping and lounging in these rooms. I settled into a recliner in the women-only room. It was quiet with some light background music playing and a few people snoring. Each chair has a blanket. I fell asleep for about an hour. Unfortunately the TVs are not silent: I woke up when someone turned on their TV. But it was 5am and almost time to leave for breakfast so I didn’t mind.
It turns out there is a bus that goes directly from the Onsen to Narita airport as well as Haneda. I saw it waiting outside the Onsen as I left.
But I had a food plan. If I was going to be awake all night I wasn’t going to miss out on the Tsukiji fish market experience. Trains in Tokyo start running at 5:30am, and there is a station right near the Onsen. I caught the first train to Tsukiji for a delicious breakfast before taking a train from there out to Narita airport.