“Go to an onsen” was one of the things people said was a must do in Japan. True to the Asian stereotype, Steph and I never get pampered. Facials? Nope. Massages? Just once. Relaxing at a spa? Definitely not.
After reading about some of the best onsens, I realized many of them were a little outside of Tokyo. Although I really wanted to get that experience of chillin’ in a hot tub made of rocks with trees surrounding us and snow falling gently, I wasn’t a big fan of getting on a long bus ride just for that. (And there was no snow.) We’re both pretty low maintenance, so I figured a regular spa was fine. Spa LaQua was more than just a regular spa!
There are two types of bathhouses in Japan. Onsen are filled with natural volcanic spring water that is known to have rich and healing mineral content. Sento use heated tap water and add minerals and infusions. Most bathhouses offer more than just a heated bath – they have a sauna, bedrock sauna, outdoor spring, electric baths, and of course, massages.
Part of the reason I picked Spa LaQua was because of its location: Tokyo Dome City. It is the home to Tokyo Dome (multipurpose stadium where many events are held), Tokyo Dome City Attractions (amusement park that is fun for children and adults), over 50 restaurants, a ton of stores, and LaQua (the largest natural hot spring spa complex in Tokyo).
The Yomiuri Giants (known as Tokyo Giants in the English media) are a professional baseball team here in Tokyo, Japan. They are the oldest team in all of the professional Japanese teams and play their home games in the Tokyo Dome.
They’re regarded as the New York Yankees of Japan because of their popularity and dominance in the game. But let’s be real, they should be regarded as the San Francisco Giants cause of our popularity and dominance, right? The name, uniforms, and colors are all based on the New York (and now San Francisco) Giants though. Everything looked so similar! I tried to get my sister to buy these some of these “Giants” items for her friend who loves the SF Giants. No go though…
We got to Spa LaQua, located in on the 5th-9th floors of the mall, 20 minutes before they were opened and saw the long line. Were people waiting in line for a meet and greet with a celebrity!? Nope, people in Japan just take bath houses seriously.
After we were ushered into the elevators in a timely fashion, we went to the front desk to get a locker key and bracelet. The bracelet allowed us to pay for services inside the spa so we didn’t have to worry about carrying cash or credit cards around. So convenient! We also got to pick up a change of clothes to wear for the relaxation floor. Otherwise, everyone was just naked. A big naked party…
A few rules to follow at an onsen:
- Rinse or wash off before you go into the water
- Don’t take pictures
- Use the towel they provide you for modesty (but honestly, most of the women just walked around confidently)
- Place the towel on your head when you’re in the water- Steph and I copied a lot of the girls that tied it as a headband!
- Don’t chat loudly
- Cover up your tattoos! (Tattoos are uncommon and often indicate gangster ties, so that is a big no no.)
Spa LaQua is one of the spas in Tokyo that takes advantage of natural hot springs from 1,700 meters underground. If you stay late, you can even get a great view of the Tokyo Dome.
Spa LaQua is apparently a little on the pricier side, at 2,634 yen (~$23) plus an extra charge for weekend/holidays of 324 yen (~$3), but the facilities were all so high end! What’s nice is that you can stay at the onsen for as long as you want… you can even stay overnight until 6am for an extra charge of 1,944 yen (~$17). What a steal!
In the relaxing room, you can sit or lay down on their chairs to watch TV or read magazines. And you get full service if you want to eat or drink too! Steph took a nap for a little bit, and then we went to soak and sit in the sauna before heading out since we were getting hungry.
The restaurant is pretty small, fitting around six tables in the front and a few more in the back. Once you walk in, you have to take off your shoes, put them in bags, and carry them to your table. Then you get to sit on tatami mats! The ladies here don’t speak a lick of Japanese, so there was a lot of pointing and smiling.
The Miharayaki is the regular, while the Osomeyaki had noodles!
Okonomiyaki is a savory pancake containing a bunch of ingredients. Okonomi means “what you like” and yaki means “grilled or cooked.”
After I took this picture, Steph whispered to me saying they had a sign that said don’t take pictures of their workers. Oops! This ended up being a theme throughout our trip. I’d take a picture, and Steph would point to a “No Pictures” sign… heh.
Steps to cooking your okonomiyaki:
- Add lard to the grill
- Mix the bowl of flour, nagaimo, egg, and “fillings” including beef, pork, seafood, cabbage, and onions
- Pour the entire mixture on the griddle
- Flip when lightly browned using two metal spatulas
- Allow to brown more deeply on the second side then flip again
- Brush generously with the provided sauce
- Drizzle copious quantities of Japanese mayonnaise over the top
- Dust with nori flakes (laver)
- Cut on the griddle. Serve and eat hot
Eating okonomiyaki at Sometaro was definitely a fun experience! Now, where do I find a place like this closer to home?