Looking for a cheap self-care destination? This could be it.

The weather is finally starting to get chilly in Japan, and that means it’s time to make hot baths and saunas a regular thing. But with tried and true onsen nearby Tokyo becoming few and far between, it can be hard to know where to go.

So our Saitama Prefecture local and Japanese-language reporter Masanuki Sunakoma decided to have a sauna and hot springs weekend in his home prefecture, making two stops that he thinks were worth it: Iruma no Yu and Miyazawa Lake Onsen Kirari Villa.

Iruma no Yu was Masanuki’s first stop, located about two kilometers (1.24 miles) away from Iruma-shi Station in the nearby Saitama Prefecture. It had a large indoor public bath, an outdoor public bath, and three types of saunas.

The entrance fee? Just 450 yen (US$3.96)!

▼ Towel rentals and a robe to wear inside were available separately for 280 yen each.

That would probably explain why it was difficult to find a parking spot at 3:00 p.m. on a Saturday. Masanuki noted that most of the license plates were from nearby Tokorozawa City, which meant it was a hotspot (no pun intended) for locals. In fact, when Masanuki entered the main men’s bath…

▼ …it was absolutely packed with other naked guys.

He counted at least 50 people in there, and he reckoned most of them were locals. Can you blame them for wanting to soak for such a low price, though?

▼ He couldn’t take photos inside because, you know, lots of naked guys, but here’s the general vibe.

After Masanuki finished his initial soak in the bath, he decided to try out the three different saunas included in the deal. He started in the Stadium Sauna, where four rows of six-seater benches were lined up with people boiling in 90-degree Celcius (194-degree Fahrenheit) heat. Their entertainment of choice was silently watching a baseball game on TV.

▼ Just imagine yourself taking a dip in here.

Ten minutes of sweet sweat went by before he cooled off in a cold-water bath (about 18 degrees Celcius, 64 degrees Fahrenheit) for a couple of minutes until he felt like he wasn’t sweating buckets anymore.

The next sauna he tried out was the Salt Sauna. While watching golf, he rubbed salt all over his body in order to remove dead skin and excess oil. Another ten minutes, and the Salt Sauna was done.

Masanuki also tried to brave the Steam Sauna, but since it was the most popular, he was only able to squeeze himself in there for a moment. He gave up and went to the Stadium Sauna instead. He repeated the process of steaming and cooling down about four times before he was satisfied.

▼ To wrap things up, he chugged this apple black vinegar drink for 100 yen.

At such a reasonable price, he could see himself being a regular there. It’s also located near popular Saitama destinations like Costco and the Mitsui Outlet Park.

▼ You could take a cheap soak and then go bulk-shopping!

The next day, Masanuki headed over to Saitama’s Hanno City, otherwise known as the homeland of Moomin Valley Park. But he wasn’t here to see Moomin today — he was here to enjoy luxurious natural hot springs.

Next to Moomin Valley is one such place called Miyazawa Lake Onsen Kirari Villa. Located a 15-minute bus ride from Hanno Station, it’s fairly accessible.

▼ And if you’re going by car, parking is free!

At this onsen, he was given the option between a Simple Course for 1,050 yen or a Relaxation Course (bedrock bath included) for 1,550 yen. He decided to go with the Simple Course to see how much he could stretch his money.

▼ He could also enjoy the outdoor bath and two kinds of saunas on the Simple Course, so it seemed like a good deal to him.

The real charm point of this hot spring location is the view. It overlooks Miyazawa Lake, and the scenery has been likened to Japan’s Scandinavia.

▼ That might explain why Moomin Valley Park is nearby.

▼ They even have hammocks on the balcony!

After soaking and steaming some more, Masanuki stopped at the restaurant in Miyazawa Lake Onsen to have their famous Shio Koji Karaage Fried Chicken Meal (940 yen). Soaking and steaming can take a lot out of you, so Masanuki appreciated the hearty meal.

▼ He enjoyed everything so much that he stayed there for a total of five hours.

He also noted that the onsen had Wi-Fi, so you could take a dip and then do some work if you wanted to. Masanuki did notice it started to get crowded as it got dark though, so he recommends visiting in the afternoon if you go on a weekend.

▼ And if you leave at the right time, you can see this gorgeous sunset.

▼ He also recommends enjoying a nice honey lemon drink after your soak and sweat session.

So if you’re looking for a steamy onsen to frequent, Masanuki recommends Iruma no Yu. If you want to treat yourself to a day of luxury and relaxation at a low price, he’d say to go with Miyazawa Lake Onsen.

They may not be some of Japan’s most popular, but they sure are accessible and affordable!

Onsen information
Iruma no Yu / 入間の湯
Address: Saitama-ken, Iruma-shi, Kasugacho 1-11-10
Open everyday from 10 a.m.-12 p.m.

Miyazawa Lake Onsen Kirari Villa / 宮沢湖温泉 喜楽里別邸
Address: Saitama-ken, Hanno-shi, Miyazawa 27-49
Open everyday from 9 a.m.-11 p.m.

Photos: ©SoraNews24
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[ Read in Japanese ]