How far can ¥10,000 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.
Transportation: Tokyo to Yunessun
From Shinjuku Station, take the Odakyu Odawara express to Odawara, a 97-minute ride, for ¥900 one-way. At the very last stop, Odawara, switch to the Hakone Tozan Railway and get off at Hakone-Yumoto (15 minutes, ¥390 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 (¥590 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 ¥590 for around 23-25 minutes. From Hakone-Yumoto, again, take the Hakone Tozan Railway to Odawara, then the Odakyu Odawara express to Shinjuku.
Total: ¥3,620 (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 ¥3,600 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.
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 (¥3,500 for adults/¥1,800 for children), or pay separate entrance fees for each (Yunessun – ¥2,500 for adults/¥1,400 for children, Mori no Yu – ¥1,500 for adults/¥1,000 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, while the fast food restaurant across the main pool has yakisoba and yakiudon for ¥680. If you’re on a tight budget, one stall has corn dogs (a.k.a. American dogs) for ¥390 and crepes from ¥400.
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 for food
Cheapo Challenge Results
Trying my best to stick to the ¥10,000 budget, here is what I ended up spending. You can save even more by booking tickets in advance and by bringing your own towels and swimsuits.
|Day 1 – Shinjuku Station to Kowakien
|Accommodation and Admission
|B&B Pension Hakone
|Hakone Yunessun Ticket
|Inclusive of Mori no Yu Ticket
|Day 2 – Lunch (yakisoba)
|Day 2 – Kowakien to Shinjuku Station
Also see our weekend escape challenge to Kusatsu Onsen in Gunma.
This post was orginally published on June 2016. Updated by Heidi Sarol in June 2022.