Feb 5, 2010

Tokiwa Onsen, Sakai City, Osaka Pref.

The bath for Men. The mosaic tile art of Mt.Fuji on the wall is typical scenery at Sentos.(Photo: Courtesy of Kanbutsuya-san, taken July 2007)

When it comes to good onsens, Osaka is one of the most ungifted prefectures. But there are a few recommendable onsens, and the Tokiwa Onsen(トキワ温泉) in Sakai City is easiest to visit among them.

The Tokiwa Onsen is a Sento. It means no frills, minimum equipment and service with low admission fee. If you want to visit a luxury spa type onsen, don't go. But if you want to see a part of Osakans' daily life, visiting here and soaking with them would be a worthwhile experience.

Sentos are bath houses originally for people don't have baths at their homes. Residences equipped with baths were very limited until late 1950's or early 1960's in Japan, and sentos were so important for our daily life several decades ago. Most sentos accept soakers with tatoo.

Now that most residences equipped with bathrooms, the number of the sento is decreasing sharply. Surge of the fuel price in recent years, owners & managers' aging, and lack of successors also accelerating the move. (To know more on sento, see Wikipedia)

The Japanese character "ゆ" on Noren, half long curtain at the entrance means "hot water". (Photo: Mar. 2006 )

The Tokiwa Onsen is no exception. It was closed for months twice, as the manager died following long-term hospitalization. It resumed business under a new manager in July 2007 after fourteen-month closure.

Some of the sentos including the Tokiwa Onsen supply hot springs. Usually I don't recommend onsens in city area, but this one is different. Abundant onsen overflows from the bath tub and the floor looks like flooding. It has slight boiled egg smells and sometimes you can recognize many small brown mineral encrustations in the onsen water.

There are three stages in the bath tub (see the top photo). Hot spring pour into lower stages and finally to the floor. At my first visit, the temperature of the top stage was 43°C, the middle was 42°C, the lowest was 41°C. The top stage is too small to soak.

Osakans are generally open-hearted. If you don't forget two basic bathing manners in Japan - wash or at least rinse your body before stepping in the bath tub, and not to soak your towel in the bath tub, they will welcome you.

◆Tokiwa Onsen (トキワ温泉)

Type: Gender separated indoor baths, day visit only, tatoo allowed.

Address: 3-1-26 Shinmeicho Nishi, Sakai-ku, Sakai City, Osaka Pref.

Location: 34.586178,135.477986

Map of the Tokiwa Onsen in English (Scale changeable)

Business hour: 2:30 PM to 11:00 PM

Holiday: Every first, third, and fifth Sunday

Admission fee: ¥410 for adult. Buy your ticket at vending machine.

Equipment:Washing Bowls, Showers, Lockers. Sauna available with ¥200 extra. Bring your own towel, soap, and shampoo, or you can buy them.

Access: There are two routes.
1) Take a tram Hankai-line(阪堺線)from Minami-kasumicho(南霞町), just beside Shinimamiya(新今宮)Stn. and subway Dobutsuen-mae(動物園前) Stn. to Abikomichi(我孫子道)and when you reach Abikomichi, the terminal station, change trams to Hamaderaekimae(浜寺駅前)and get off at the Shinmeicho(神明町). Some trams go directly to Hamaderaekimae.

2) Take a tram Kamimachi-sen(上町線)to Hamaderaekimae(浜寺駅前)from Tennojiekimae(天王寺駅前), and get off at the Shinmeicho(神明町). Every other tram goes dictly to Hamaderaekimae. If you get on the tram to Sumiyoshikoen(住吉公園), change the trams at the Sumiyoshikoen to Hamaderaekimae.

The one way through fare is ¥290 either route. When you get off the tram at the Shinmeicho, turn right (There is a Family Mart on the corner) and walk few blocks. You will find the Tokiwa Onsen at the second traffic signals. If you get lost, Just ask around "Tokiwa Onsen wa doko desuka?"

My rating (A - E): B

Minus point: Lack of relaxing space.

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