Happy birthday to me! And what better way to spend it than at a sentou in Odaiba, Tokyo?
We ate our last breakfast in the hotel (I’ll miss that fish!) before heading out to Odaiba. We stumbled upon an odd set of arches spewing mist, so we had to play with it, of course. I also took some pictures from the “Terupouto Burijji” (Teleport Bridge). The expansive parking lot was entirely – eerily – abandoned on this Monday morning.
Venturing further down the path, we came to the renowned life-size Gundam. I had seen videos of it before, but nothing prepared me for the sheer size of it. I didn’t expect that a person could theoretically fit inside one of its feet. We were a bit disappointed finding it stationary; we had seen it move in videos. I noticed some times for a show later that night, so we resolved to check back later.
We grabbed lunch in the Aqua City mall before hanging at the waterfront for a bit to snatch some photos. We then followed the monorail down the street to the Ooedo-Onsen Monogatari sentou.
When we were told the women’s outdoor bath was closed for some renovation, I was bummed, thinking that would cut into a large portion of our available activities. However, there was so much more to this place than I imagined.
Aaron and I disappeared into our respective changing rooms, and I thought we’d be separated until we chose to leave, several hours later. However, once you change into your yukata, you step out into the indoor “street” (barefoot). We were then able to enjoy the activities and fair-like atmosphere together.
I thoroughly enjoyed the outdoor foot bath area. This simply consisted of a small stream-like, shallow pool, lined with massaging rocks, and comfortably warm. We were fortunate to have perfect weather (high 60s and dry), so we took our time soaking it in.
We also opted for the additional foot therapy with a hundred tiny fish that nibble away at dead skin cells. It felt like tiny, sucking kisses. My feet are extremely ticklish, so I had a hard time getting used to the sensation. But when I did, it was surprisingly pleasant.
In the baths themselves, I was a bit uncomfortable with the public environment at first, but the atmosphere was relaxed, and everyone kept to themselves and their friends. I found there was no need to be self-conscious, and I overcame the discomfort quickly enough. The entire experience was quite enjoyable.
I was also glad for the weekday. While there were still plenty of people enjoying the sentou, it wasn’t anywhere near as crowded as it could have been. In fact, as 5pm rolled around and the population was gradually increasing, we were thankful to be on our way out (after a little dinner in the “street”).
We jumped the monorail back to the beach outside of Aqua City, procuring some beautiful nighttime pictures of Tokyo Tower across the bay. We then hurried back to the Gundam for the show.
It wound up being a 20-minute Gundam episode (in Japanese) projected on the outer wall of Diver City, along with the Gundam moving and lighting up in time to the episode. It was fun to watch, even if we couldn’t understand the Japanese.
The stairs behind the Gundam were also rigged to light up in time to music, so we stuck around afterwards to watch the spectacle for a while.
Much like other areas we had seen, Odaiba is beautifully illuminated at night this time of year. I suspect this is related to the holiday season, and I’m happy we were there to catch it.
Tired but relaxed, we boarded the train bound for Akihabara. Craving a snack and another food experience, we sought out street vendor crepes. It didn’t take us long to find “Crazy Crepes.” I didn’t find the options to be particularly “crazy” (I had seen more unusual combinations), and we wound up with some simple fruity flavors. They were quite tasty.
Swinging by a grocery to pick up some breakfast supplies, we called it a night.
The relaxing day was a nice treat, and the pampering was an excellent way to spend a birthday. I doubt I’ll be able to top Japan come next year!
- Katakana is a fun round of Mad Gab. It usually depicts a Japenglish word, and you have to sound it out to hear the implied English.
- Some straws come in an easy-open plastic sleeve. Pull where it says to, and it opens right up.
- Bathrooms aren’t commonly on all floors in places like malls; there are typically several on one floor.
- Walking on river rocks really hurts. I’m sure it could be massaging and therapeutic if you got used to it.
- There’s a whole assortment of etiquette surrounding visiting a public bath. Familiarize yourself with the steps beforehand to optimize your time at a sentou.
- There are many illumination shows this time of year. Do a little research to see what’s happening where. Or take your chances and stumble upon them like we did.
- If you purchase sushi or the like at a grocery or convenience store, you’ll be given chopsticks at the register.
- Toothpicks are plentiful – in every restaurant and even in with disposable chopsticks. I suppose it’s because that seaweed is notorious for sticking in your teeth.
- If you’re looking for something specific (e.g.: crepes), just go with the first one you see. Don’t be picky, or you’ll end up walking around a lot more than you have to.
- The Akihabara train station has taiyaki! Look for the 8F signs near the Electric Town exit.
Baka gaijin moment of the day: don’t go into an exit. People will be confused and look at you funny. This fortunately wasn’t my mistake, but it’s important to note. 口 means “gate.” 入 means “enter” or “in” (not to be confused with 人, which means “person”), and 出 means “exit” or “out.” Therefore, go in where you see 入口, and exit at 出口. 入出口, as I’m sure you can imagine, permits both.