How far can 10,000 yen take you beyond the borders of Tokyo? The Cheapo Weekend Escape Challenge is a series of posts about solo overnight trips from Tokyo that cost just one man-note, or less.
You might have heard of Hakone Kowakien Yunessun (or just Yunessun for short), as it’s been featured in the media for its quirky baths. Since it’s about 2.5 hours from Shinjuku Station, it’s a feasible daytrip location, but if you want to take your time and enjoy a good, long soak, there’s an affordable lodging option nearby – B&B Pension Hakone. This makes it a great weekend escape from Tokyo.
Transportation: Tokyo to Yunessun
From Shinjuku Station, take the Odakyu Odawara express to Odawara, a 97-minute ride, for 880 yen one-way. At the very last stop, Odawara, switch to the Hakone Tozan Railway and get off at Hakone-Yumoto (15 minutes, 310 yen one-way).
Next, from Hakone-Yumoto Station, take a bus headed for Hakone-machi (the bus stop is across the station) and alight at Kowakien (580 yen one-way, 18-25 minutes). Upon getting off at the Kowakien bus stop, you’ll see Yunessun right across the street – it’s hard to miss! If you get there anytime between 9:00 am-6:00 pm, there will be a free shuttle bus to drop you off in front of B&B Pension Hakone. A few other hotels around the area are also part of the route, so be sure to tell the driver where you’re getting off.
I definitely recommend arriving in time for the free shuttle bus. Although Google Maps and B&B Pension Hakone’s website both say that the lodge is a 10-minute walk from the Kowakien bus stop, I found out that the walk there wasn’t as convenient as I thought. I thought it would be fine to arrive at the lodge at night, after work, but, walking there from Yunessun, I learned that some stretches of the road were dimly lit.
Also note that there are no restaurants or convenience stores within reasonable walking distance of B&B Pension Hakone, so if you’re the type that gets hungry at night, buy your midnight snacks from the FamilyMart near the Kowakien bus stop.
The shuttle bus will also be your mode of transportation between B&B Pension Hakone and Yunessun. They arrive every 20 minutes.
As for the trip back to Tokyo, there are buses to Hakone-Yumoto from Yunessun, also for 580 yen for around 23-25 minutes. From Hakone-Yumoto, again, take the Hakone Tozan Railway to Odawara, then the Odakyu Odawara express to Shinjuku.
Total: 3,540 yen (round-trip)
B&B Pension Hakone
This no-frills lodge is the cheapest accommodation option that’s close to Yunessun. On average, room rates start from 3,000 yen a night, but the B&B has various promos and plans throughout the year. I managed to snag one of those. According to the staff, the summer months (July to August) are their peak months, so other than those times, prices should be very cheap. They also said that room rates are cheapest if you book from the official website.
You get what you pay for, so don’t expect anything fancy. The interior of the lodging looks outdated, for one, and the lodge has no elevators, so pack light. The rooms are small and spartan, but clean and comfortable. You’ll have to pay extra for amenities like towels, nightclothes, and toothbrushes, so bring your own. Toilets and baths are shared, but onsen lovers might be pleased to know that B&B Pension Hakone’s bathing facility is an onsen, in case bathing at Yunessun isn’t enough. And don’t worry, the hotel has free wi-fi!
Spending the night at the lodge entitles you to a free breakfast (from 7:00-9:00 am) – a modest but delicious bread buffet, with coffee and juice as well.
Total: 5,150 yen (special promo – inclusive of accommodation and admission to Yunessun)
The Yunessun complex consists of the Yunessun spa itself (opening hours: 9:00 am-7:00 pm), an onsen called Mori no Yu (11:00 am-8:00 pm), and Mio Mall, a shopping area with plenty of souvenirs. You can purchase a combination ticket that allows access to both Yunessun and Mori no Yu (4,100 yen for adults/2,100 yen for children), or pay separate entrance fees for each (Yunessun – 2,900 for adults/1,600 yen for children, Mori no Yu – 1,900 yen for adults/1,200 yen for children).
Before entering the spa premises, the staff will give you a wristband that houses your locker key and records purchases. Yunessun and Mori no Yu both use a cashless system, which means that you can leave your wallet in your locker and scan your wristband over a sensor when making purchases. You then pay the total bill in cash before exiting.
Upon entry, it’s time to find your assigned locker and get changed. For an extra fee, you can rent swimsuits, towels, and spare clothes in case you’ve forgotten to bring any. Keep in mind that the Yunessun spa is a swimsuit zone (and photos are allowed here), but at Mori no Yu, you’ll have to be naked to enjoy the onsen (which naturally means that photos aren’t allowed).
Yunessun has your typical water-park attractions – a large pool called The Gods’ Aegean Sea, a water slide, a kiddie pool, and a jacuzzi – but its quirky baths are really what make it stand out. In previous years, it seems that these baths were outdoors, but Yunessun underwent renovations a year or two ago, so the baths are all indoor now.
For starters, they have a seasonal bath. When I visited, it was a collagen drink bath that was said to be good for the skin:
And then there are the famous wine, coffee, green tea, and sake baths, all of which are also said to be good for the skin because of their rejuvenating properties. The coffee bath is rather warm:
The sake and red wine baths are not as warm as the coffee bath:
But the green tea bath is where to go if you want to cool down:
Every few hours, there are so-called “performances,” during which staff bring out actual coffee and wine, and pour them on willing bathers. I was able to witness part of the coffee bath performance:
I wasn’t able to see if the sake bath got a “refill” as well, but while I was in the green tea bath, a Yunessun employee came over with some green tea powder.
Yunessun also has a Turkish foot bath, complete with Doctor Fish to give your feet some much-needed therapy. You’ll have to pay extra for this service, which is only available at certain times of day. Another point of interest is the hot spring cave, which, with its lighting, looks like something from a video game:Meanwhile, Mori no Yu has a combination of indoor and outdoor baths, as well as a sauna bath.
As for food options, fear not; surprisingly, Yunessun has affordable options. One restaurant, Daimonji Terrace, has udon for 500 yen, while the fast food restaurant across the main pool has yakisoba and yakiudon for 680 yen. If you’re on a tight budget, one stall has corn dogs (a.k.a. American dogs) for 390 yen and crepes from 400 yen.
Yunessun, as well as Mori no Yu, also has free rest areas where you can just lie down, relax, and recharge. Massage services are available, but they don’t come cheap!
Overall, Yunessun was a relaxing experience. If a little hydrotherapy is what you need to relieve your stress, a getaway to Yunessun might be an option for you.
Total: 500 yen for food
Cheapo Challenge Results
So was I able to stick to the budget of 10,000 yen? Let’s add up the expenses!
|Transportation||Day 1 – Shinjuku Station to Kowakien||1770 yen|
|Accommodation and Admission||B&B Pension Hakone + Yunessun/Mori no Yu admission (as part of a special promo)||5150 yen|
|Food||Day 2 – Lunch (yakisoba)||680 yen|
|Transportation||Day 2 – Kowakien to Shinjuku Station||1770 yen|
|Transportation||Day 2 – Shinjuku Station to home||160 yen|
|Food||Day 2 – Dinner (bento)||421 yen|
It looks like I managed to spend just a little under 10,000 yen! But, as I mentioned, I availed of a limited-time promo, so here’s another way you can make a weekend getaway to Yunessun for 10,000 yen or less.
An Alternative for Under 10,000 Yen
Odakyu, the company behind the Odakyu Odawara Line, offers a discount package to Yunessun that’s valid for two consecutive days. 4,470 yen (or 2,540 yen for kids) gets you admission to both Yunessun and Mori no Yu (including rental of bath towels), and round-trip transportation between Shinjuku and Kowakien. You can purchase this ticket at the Odakyu Sightseeing Service Center on the first floor of Shinjuku Station’s West Exit, close to the Odakyu department store. Note that prices go up by 1,200 yen from August 1-16, so avoid making a trip during this time if you want to save money.
Assuming a room rate of 3,000 yen at B&B Pension Hakone, you’re left with 2,530 yen for meals. Let’s say you’ll have to pay for three meals (day one’s dinner, plus the next day’s lunch and dinner; or, if you’re spending a full day at Hakone then leaving the next morning – breakfast, lunch, and dinner for day one). That comes up to around 843 yen per meal. If you’re frugal enough, you can even have enough money for a souvenir or two (or maybe a drink – it’s quite common to drink milk after bathing in an onsen).
If you can spend, at most, 543 yen per meal, you can even visit the Hakone Museum of Art (9:00 am-4:00 pm from December to March, 9:00 am-4:30 pm from April to November; 900 yen for adults, 400 yen for high school and university students with a valid ID; free for children of junior high school age or younger), which, according to B&B Pension Hakone staff, is a 7- to 10-minute walk away from the lodge. The museum showcases old Japanese ceramics, and it also has an adjacent landscape garden that’s only open on weekends, holidays, and all November.