Sunday, June 29, 2008

Yunessun Spa in Hakone

Oh a spa, sounds exotic, right? Well this place is exotic, that's for sure! I realize we've only been here since the end of March, but I think we may have visited the weirdest, most interesting Japan has to offer; it certainly is the strangest place we've been to so far. I have never seen or heard of anything like it. Yunessun is a hot springs/bath spa resort in Hakone. The kids thought the this was the coolest thing ever, and I have to agree. I feel bad going out, seeing new things and exploring Japan without Bob here, but if we want to experience Japan and see what it has to offer, I've got to suck it up and do it myself...and with the kids of course. The way I see it, we can explore, and if there's something we like and want to do it again with Bob we can. That's the beauty of meeting people here, especially wives whose husband work with Bob. That way they're gone at the same time and we develop a great support system. I had it on the USS Rhode Island, and again on the USS Los Angeles. A little inspiring, huh? Okay, maybe not, but it's true!

Anyway, we ventured 2 1/2 hours away to the Yunessun Spa yesterday. We went as a group with MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation), and took a bus ride up there. The bus picked us up at 6:30 and we arrived at Yunessun around 9:45 am. We drove along the coast on route 134 and stopped at a rest area for 30 minutes along the way. No need to stop that long, but it wasn't exactly up to me! In the ladies' restroom there were about 10-12 Japanese style toilets (the ones in the floor that you squat over) and two Eastern style toilets. Phew! I got nervous walking around in circles looking for a normal toilet! There were all kinds of vending machines, and a small food counter and seating area. I ordered some kind of salmon thing. It was a rice ball about the size of a baseball covered in seaweed with salmon in the middle. The fish was raw and it was so good, but pretty salty. Best part about it was that it was only ¥100, or about $1. I also found Blue Hawaii Pepsi. Yup, literally blue carbonated Pepsi. The label says it's pineapple and lemon flavor, but I don't taste much of either. I'm drinking a bottle of it right now, and it tastes like something that came out of the smoothie machine at 7-11. Thinking about it, a little bit of rum in here would probably do the trick!

Once we got closer to the spa my ears started popping. We were going uphill and it got steep and very twisty and curvy. I had to look out the window and try not to get nauseous. It was such a pretty ride there, and it was so nice being able to look out the window and not concentrate on driving. If it wasn't cloudy, we would have had a great view of Mt. Fuji.

There were two family spas: Yutopia is the one we spent our time at. The other Mori No Yu, is the traditional Japanese onsen. The first thing we did was the "Gara rufa" fish bath. The treatment and the fish were imported from Turkey where people deep all their body inside the water to be treated. We waited in line for about 20 minutes, then washed our feet in the Turkish Hamman. Then we sat around a pool, put our feet in and the fish would eat the dead skin off of our feet. Pretty creepy and gross sounding, but it was such a neat experience. They're so close I can trap them between two toes without fear of retribution. I can control what areas they concentrate on eating by flexing just the right muscle. If I move, they follow instantly. If I lift my foot from the surface of the water, they strive to gorge themselves until the last possible second. There was even a lingering ticklish feeling walking away. Here's a picture of my feet, and I'm glad I polished my nails the night before! There are a lot more pictures in my Shutterfly album too. The girls' legs weren't long enough to submerge into the water, which they were perfectly happy with. As soon as our feet went into the water the fish swarmed. I'm not a fan of swimming with fish at all, so I really put on a brave front to do this. Hey, it makes for neat pictures, right?! The treatment lasted for only three minutes and it went quickly.

A buffet lunch was included in our ticket price ($61 for me, $40 for Keanna and $35 for Sydney). Outside the restaurant was this sign...can't help but laugh at another example of Engrish. There was a mix of Japanese and American food. Fries, Chicken Nuggets, and Ketchup to Sushi, Japanese meatballs, and fried rice. There was water and green tea (hot) included, but soda (or "Cora" as it's called here) was an additional charge. For dessert there was a chocolate fountain with marshmallows, fruit and a Japanese puff ball....they looked and tasted just like the cream puffs my mom buys at Sam's in the freezer section.

This was on the floor, and there was no map nearby, so the "You are here" doesn't help much! After a satisfying lunch we walked around looking for the theme baths. They had an area with waterfalls and a small waterslide, but we didn't do this part since we were more interested in the baths, and the girls were too small for most of it. They did have a keiki (sorry, that's the Hawaiian coming out in me) kid area, but the girls were easily persuaded away when I told them we were going to a purple and green pool. We came back inside, walked to the other side and then headed outside. First thing we saw was the coffee bath. It smelled so good, and the water was brown. Keanna asked why it was dirty, and also commented that it smelled like "Nana's coffee." My mom makes coffee every morning, and apparently that stuck out in Keanna's memory!

After that we went up a small flight of steps to the wine bath. A huge wood bottle of wine was built to have "wine" pour out into the bath. This bath smelled goodand was pretty reddish purple color. I immediately thought of my mom and sisters since they love red wine, and Brenda and Anna Marie too (two wives from Bob's last sub). I'm not a wine person myself, well, not with a cork anyway. Give me a $4 screw-top bottle of wine and I'm happy! As Susan says, it's like grown up Kool Aid!

Next we enjoyed the Green Tea bath that was separated into one large bath with a waterfall and two Japanese tea cups and a small bath with a teapot pouring "green tea" into the bath. Keanna liked to walk over the bridge and look at everyone swimming. Apparently they use green tea grown in the Hakone mountains. It contains Catechin, a powerful anti-oxidant that enhances the immune system and is also good for the skin. This was favorite bath without a doubt. The smell was great, the temperature was perfect and it was shallow enough for the girls to walk around and not be held. I told Brenda I was going to use my green tea teabags from Costco and do this at home! Yeah, it'd probably take all 100 of them if not more, but I will find a way!!!

After that we did the sake bath which was very hot, Brenda went to the charcoal bath while Bri, Keanna, Sydney and I went to one of the rock baths. We made our rounds, stopped in the coffee bath again and then made our way back inside for a snack. We were very hot and feeling a little dehydrated, we had some shave ice. Nothing like the shave ice in Hawaii, but it did the trick! We felt much better, and then made our way to the Roman bath. I think the girls enjoyed this one the best since there was a train going around in a case. There was even an attendant dressed as a conductor!

After that we headed back to the locker room to change and get ready to go. Oh, forgot to mention the neat way we were able to pay for stuff. Instead of carrying around a wallet or change purse, you are issued a RFID enabled wrist band at check-in for use during the day. At the locker room you can use your wrist band to open and lock your locker, and change in to your bathing suit. Then anything you want to purchase is done through the bracelet. I took a picture of the little block that sits on counters.
We had an incredible day, and slept the entire ride home. Was it worth it? Yup! Would I go back? Without a doubt. Only next time I'd go during the week and without the kids. They behaved and had fun, but I'd like to go back with Bob and enjoy the day. There's a hotel there as well, and apparently it's traditional Japanese. Sleeping on straw mats and having rice and fish for breakfast. Maybe we can do that, who knows, but I'd be happy spending the day there and exploring some more.
Brenda and Bri, thanks so much for a wonderful and memorable time yesterday. Keanna's asking to go back, and asked if we could go again tomorrow! Yeah, I don't think so!
To see the rest of the pictures go to my Shutterfly album by clicking here.

Lastly, and I thought this was a riot, Reuters has a list of the Top 10 Weird Actives from Around the World, and Yunessun made the list!


Shari said...

HOW COOL! That is so neat. Glad you enjoyed your day out!

WeidnerWorld said...

Yay! You found the Pepsi!!!

AllBlueZoo said...

ooooh, yummy! That trip looks like lots of fun!

Nicole said...

I've heard about this place from just about everyone I know... but no one knew the name of it! David and I definately want to go there!!!!

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