Answers from Our Experts (2)
It depends whether you want to relax or play. For relaxing, you’ll want an onsen. Tokyo’s best genuine hot spring is 15 minutes west of Shibuya in Futako Tamagawa. It goes by the official name Sanga-no-yu and the semi-official name Seta Onsen. It’s a large complex of baths, some indoor, some outdoor, some exclusively for male or female guests, and two communal baths (swimwear essential for those.) Posters on the wall list all the purported health benefits of the various minerals in the water, but it’s probably just the deep relaxation that does you the most good.
The Oedo Onsen Monogatari calls itself a hot spring theme park, and that’s a pretty good description. It’s set in a dining and entertainment complex built to resemble the Edo period (1603-1868). It has two baths of volcanically heated water, and five more that are artificially warmed. It also has unusually generous opening hours: 11am-9am.
For more excitement in the water, head north from Tokyo to the adrenaline-filled town of Minakami in Gumma Prefecture. In the warmer months you can go canyoning, white-water rafting or bungee jump over a lake. See www.canyons.jp
There may be more exciting or more relaxing water activities in Tokyo, but there is no water activity with a better story than the swan boats in Inokashira Park. But paddle at your own risk! It is said that the small lake in the park is inhabited by a jealous female spirit who doesn’t like to see happy couples. Couples who boat on the lake together, the story goes, are bound to break up soon after. Care to test your luck? Take the Chuo Line west of the city from Shinjuku to Kichijoji and follow the masses through a pleasant shopping street and down a wide set of steps to the park. Take a few minutes to admire the weeping willows and the artists and musicians who hang out in the park, and then walk across the low footbridge to the far side of the lake where the boats are. They don’t cost much to ride — at least financially! If you want to play it safe, there’s a lovely walking path around the lake, too.