Tokyo: Side Trips


Oedo Onsen Monogatari Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert / Alamy
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Take the 20-minute sea bus ($4) from Hinode ferry terminal or the monorail from Shimbashi (20 minutes, $3) out to this manmade island in Tokyo Bay for a walk along the beach and a view of the Rainbow Bridge. There's also a big shopping mall, enormous ferris wheel, and Sega's Joypolis, a massive indoor amusement park. Sony's ExploraScience Museum here is great if you're traveling with kids; even adults will be entertained by the museum's interactive exhibits and virtual reality games. Admission is $5 for adults, and $3 for children ages 3 to 15. (Note: the museum is temporarily closed for renovations, but will reopen in June 2009.)

Close by is Oedo-Onsen Monogatari, a spa retreat where you can take a restorative dip in one of the many onsen, or hot-spring baths (they are not private, but men and women are segregated). Lounge around the garden in your borrowed yukata robe, soak your feet in the shallow wading pool and massage your soles against the stones along the bottom — or have them exfoliated by "Doctor Fish," the freshwater carp that will nibble away at your flaky skin until you're smooth from heel to toe. (It's actually a delightful experience, and I'm as ticklish as they come.)

In the spa's bathing rooms, you're not permitted to wear your robe, or a swimsuit for that matter, so you'll have to check your modesty at the door. You are allowed to carry a "humility towel," a small swatch you can strategically drape against yourself as you walk about the decks and then fold and place on the top of your head while you're in the water. It might feel awkward at first, baring all in front of strangers and your travel pals, but in Japanese culture it's perfectly, well, natural. Note: no tattoos allowed (skin art is still considered the mark of a criminal here in Japan, even though more and more young people are getting inked). If your tats are small enough, cover them with Band-Aids. Oedo-Onsen Monogatari is open 11 a.m. to 9 a.m.; admission is about $30 for adults (some spa treatments cost extra), and $16 for children ages 4 to 11.

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