For the last two days of our 2015 Japan trip, we decided on staying in a hotel in Narita. Though Narita isn’t exactly known for it’s sightseeing, being only 10-15 minutes away from the Narita airport is extremely convenient. The hotel we stayed in, Narita View Hotel (成田ビューホテル), also had shuttle service to the Airport which made things even easier.
While the view in the surrounding area is nice, it wasn’t quite what I expected given the hotel’s name of “View”. However, it turns out that this word actually had another meaning, it stood for “美湯” which means “beautiful water”. This hotel actually has an extensive onsen (natural spring bath) that I was told is one of the only natural ones in that area. Onsen usage is included in the price of the hotel, and it was a very relaxing and memorable experience that I highly recommend – a caliber above the onsen in the Marukyuu hotel in Nikkou which I wrote about in part 2 of this series.
Unlike taking a bath in a simple bathtub, enjoying the onsen facilities at a hotel like this is actually pretty involved. Here is the general procedure:
- When you check in, make sure you receive a coupon from the front desk for each adult that is entering the onsen. Children can enter the onsen but don’t need coupons, although I think there was a small fee for them.
- Once you are ready to experience the onsen, take the elevator to the first floor and head towards the onsen complex, near the restaurants. You can recognize it easily because of the big curtain with “ゆ” character on it, which is pronounced “yu” and means hot water. Note: We were told that the robes supplied in the hotel rooms were not to be worn into the bath areas. [Note: onsens are typically open for some time in the morning, close around lunch time, and reopen in the afternoon until evening]
- You can go straight and take the long, narrow steps down to the floor where the onsen is located, or alternatively go via a separate elevator which is near the laundry facility building.
- Present your coupon to the person waiting at the front desk. If it is the first time you are entering, they will exchange your initial coupon with one that can be reused multiple times.
- There are two separate areas for women and men, and as of a recently they have started switching them on a daily basis, so make sure you double check which side you enter in. The one time I made a mistake the person at the front desk corrected me.
- In the first room, which is a small tatami-mat area, remove your shoes and place them in the lockers provided. Take the key for the one you put your shoes in. Take the rest of your possessions with you.
- Pass by the mirrored dressing room and go deeper into the locker room. Find a locker and put in your clothes, and other items (including the shoe locker key) in this locker, and take this second key and put it around your wrist. It is waterproof so no need to worry about it getting damaged. Optionally you can take a small towel with you so you can cover your private parts when walking around, and when immersed in one of the baths you can put the towel either on your neck, head, or on a nearby rock.
- There is a small bathroom connected to the locker room, and a scale near that if you need either.
- Enter into the main onsen area. (From here onwards I will describe the rightmost complex which has a few more bathing options. I think it used to be the men’s bath daily until they instituted the exchange program)
- There is a small square tub near the entrance with a wooden bucket-like item near it. You have the option of splashing this hot water on your body before proceeding.
- The showers are the next closest area, make sure you clean your body good before entering any of the baths. The faucets are pretty strong, but you can use the traditional washing bowl (洗面器) if you wish. There is shampoo and conditioner at each of the shower stalls, plus a plastic seat.
- From here on, you can freely choose which bath to indulge in. Here is a list:
- Open-air bath (露天風呂), irregularly shaped bath made of rocks. The temperature of this and other hot baths was just right for me, hot but not scalding (unlike the baths in Marukyuu hotel).
- Outside herbal bath (ハーブ湯). The herb changes daily, it was lavender when I tried it.
- “sleeping” bath (寝湯). There are several lanes where one person can lay down at an angle, with metal rails to help you enter and exit. Just in case it isn’t clear you shouldn’t actually try to sleep in one. The verb 寝る (neru) which can mean “sleep” in Japanese also means to lay down without actually falling asleep.
- Outside personal bath. A small bean-sized tub just big enough for one medium size person.
- Indoor bath.
- Scalding water shower. When you a press a button a long stream of water comes down from a spigot. It wasn’t too hot when I tried it, not sure if there was a problem or the translation was incorrect.
- Sauna (サウナ). I haven’t tried Saunas in the U.S. much but this one got extremely hot and was very small. I had to escape after a few minutes.
- Cold-water bath (水風呂). Very cold water. The second time I entered in the Sauna I had a brief conversation with a Japanese man who was sitting in the back corner, and he suggested I try this freezing bath. At first I hesitated but after the burning sauna it was extremely refreshing, and I felt great for hours later. Highly recommended!
- When you are done with the various baths, you should return to the dressing room and dry off and change into a clean set of clothes if you have them. Then you can head over to the dressing room where are various creams and lotions you can try out, also some amenities such as Q-tips. I don’t think there were combs here, so you might want to bring your own.
It probably isn’t a good idea to bring a camera into the baths, so I didn’t take any pictures myself, but you can see some good ones on the hotel’s website here.
One other important thing – I wouldn’t consider entering an onsen if you have any visible body tattoos, especially if they are big enough to see from a distance. Many public baths will specifically prohibit tattoo-wearers, probably because of the connection to the Yakuza and tattoos in Japan. I’ve never seen a tattoo parlor in Japan and they aren’t very popular with the common people.
Besides the hot spring baths this hotel has alot of other things going for it: several nice restaurants (food quality is hit or miss), laundry room (requires coins), massage area (extra fee I believe), gift shop (open pretty late), good service, and reasonably sized rooms. Behind the hotel is a small area with picnic tables (I think the hold barbecues there), a small chapel for weddings, and a adventurous walking path through the forest.
Because of all these things, Narita View Hotel is normally quite expensive, somewhere around $300, but we found an online special a few months in advance for roughly half that price.
If you get bored cooped up in the hotel, you can still hail a taxi and venture out into the nearby city. From what I saw the appearance of the stores was more Western that most places we had been, though that is not too surprising since it’s near an airport. We took the short trip to the Aeon mall and spent many hours there. The food court has many traditional Japanese place, including a Ramen shop that looked great. Unfortunately, there was a super long line so we ended up trying other food (I had something from the store to the left of the Ramen shop, I forget it’s name) which was quite great.