At this enlightened facility, the management would rather people gaze at Mt. Fuji than worry about their fellow bathers’ body art.
As a deeply relaxing touchstone of traditional Japanese culture, there’s a lot to like about hot springs, or onsen, as they’re called here. However, many hot springs in Japan refuse entry to individuals with tattoos, due to the centuries-long connection between Japanese organized crime syndicates and that particular style of body art.
With Japan becoming increasingly internationalized, some are pushing for such restrictions to be eased, but in many places the no-tattoo rule is still in effect. This makes many alluring pools of geothermally heated water off-limits to even law-abiding foreign travelers because they happen to have a tattoo, but there are also onsen that are perfectly fine with inked bathers.
We paid a visit to one such tattoo-friendly hot spring in Gotemba, Shizuoka Prefecture. Called the Gotemba Onsen Kaikan, there’s a free shuttle service that picks up visitors at Gotemba Station and whisks them off to the facility, making it an extremely easy onsen to get to if you’re travelling by train (and the round-trip won’t cost you a thing if you’re traveling from Tokyo on a foreign traveller JR pass).
We’ll get the one piece of bad news out of the way first: Gotemba Onsen Kaikan doesn’t have an outdoor bath. On the other hand, the indoor bathing areas have expansive windows, and the view is incredible.
See, Gotemba lies not far from the foot of Mt. Fuji, and so on clear days you can see Japan’s tallest peak while lounging in the hot waters of Gotemba Onsen Kaikan. Those waters are sourced from the town’s three springs, and the alkaline-rich mixture will leave your skin feeling as smooth as the curve of Fuji’s elegant silhouette.
Gotemba Onsen Kaikan is also a very affordable hot spring. An all-day ticket costs 800 yen (US$7.75) for adults, but a three-hour pass is only 500 yen, while entry after 8 p.m. gets you a further discount that knocks the price down to just 450 yen. Towels can be purchased on-site, and you can even rent a cotton yukata robe for 150 yen.
So if you’d like to enjoy a hot soak and appreciate the view of Mt. Fuji, all in a setting where people won’t make a fuss about seeing your tattoos, you know just where to go.
Hot spring information
Gotemba Onsen Kaikan / 御殿場市温泉会館
Address: Shizuoka-ken, Gotemba-shi, Fukusawa
Ordinary hours: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. (entry until 9 p.m.)
Until August 21, open: 8 a.m.-19 p.m. (entry until 9 p.m.)