Luxury spa facility is in the top 10 most booked wellness experiences in the world but not a lot of people know there’s a way you can spend the night there. 

The other day, our Japanese-language reporter Masanuki Sunakoma got off work early so he decided it was the perfect time to stop by a public bathhouse near the office. He’d heard great things about this facility, so he was keen to check it out, especially on this freezing cold evening in Tokyo.

As one of the largest natural hot spring spa facilities in Tokyo, Thermae-Yu is conveniently located smack-bang in the middle of Kabukicho in Shinjuku. It’s also open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, which makes it a great place to hang out and unwind if you miss your last train out of the city, and a good place to wait out the busy rush hour trains after work.

▼ Thermae-Yu offers lounges and massage chairs for guests to relax in.

Images: Thermae-Yu

The facility also houses a number of unique baths, including heated rock baths.

Image: Thermae-Yu

Just as ancient Roman soldiers healed their wounds in thermae bath complexes back in the day, modern-day workers in Shinjuku can heal their scars from the day at Thermae-Yu. Masanuki sure felt like a tired warrior who’d stepped in from the cold when he arrived at the six-storey facility, and the first thing he did was take off his shoes and step into some slippers, leaving his shoes in one of the lockers at the entrance.

Then he registered for free as a member, which reduced his entrance fee from 2,405 yen (US$20.85) to 2,185 yen, which bought him a one-off 12 hours in the facility.

The entrance fee includes a free towel and clothes to wear at the facility, which need to be returned at the end of each visit. Masanuki received a shirt-and-shorts set, while women can receive either a shirt and shorts or a dress.

Every guest also receives a wristband with a four-digit number that corresponds with a locker number. Masanuki stepped out of his world-weary warrior clothes and into his new cosy attire, stashing his stuff in his locker before heading to the main spa area on the second floor.

The entire facility was beautifully modern and clean, having only been built in 2015. It kind of reminded Masanuki of a hotel facility, only with the extra perk of numerous bathing facilities being available to him.

Masanuki entered the main bathing area, after undressing and taking a small face towel from the dressing room with him, and found that it was far more spacious than he’d expected. There were also fewer people than expected, which was another nice surprise.

He washed his body and headed over to the sauna. It was about 7:00 p.m. so Masanuki thought it might be empty in there, but alas, there were quite a few people inside, sitting on the mutli-tiered benches and watching a TV that was in front of them. The sauna was large enough to accommodate around 30 people and the temperature display showed it was about 90 degrees Celsius (194 degree Fahrenheit) inside.

▼ Photos in bathing areas are off-limits, so enjoy Masanuki’s sketch of the sweaty people he saw in the sauna.

Masanuki decided to skip the sauna and head on over to the unusual “Chilli Pepper Bath” instead. This unique bath was created to commemorate Thermae-Yu’s impressive 9th-place ranking in Trip Advisor’s list of most booked wellness experiences in the world. Though the chillies in the bath were hot, the water was not, as it was only 17 degrees Celsius.

Masanuki spent a while in this bath but didn’t feel any tingling on his skin. He’s certain the chillies seeped their goodness through his pores somehow, though, as he was sitting right next to a bag of them inside the water, as this sketch shows. 

Masanuki didn’t have a lot of time to spend at the facility, unfortunately, so he decided to visit the large communal bath before making his way home. This large open-air bath is said to be the pride of Thermae-Yu, and what makes it so special is the fact that its waters are brought in from the Jindai-Yu natural springs in Izu, Shizuoka Prefecture every day.

Natural hot spring waters are hard to come across in Tokyo, so this is a big drawcard for the facility. And to top it off, the men’s bath has a huge, magnificent mural of Mt Fuji on the wall for bathers to gaze at while they soak in the waters from Shizuoka, which is home to one half of the famous mountain.

▼ The mural is designed to look as if Mt Fuji is being seen out of three windows.

When Masanuki stepped out of the bath and dried himself, he felt fully rejuvenated. It was hard to believe this luxury spa getaway was just around the corner from work and in the middle of Tokyo, and he will definitely be visiting more regularly.

▼ There are many more amazing baths to try at the facility.

Image: Thermae-Yu

If you’re looking for a place to unwind in Tokyo, Thermae-Yu is definitely a fantastic place to visit. Not only are there baths and chill-out areas to enjoy, there are also massage services on site and a couple of restaurants, although these have separate business hours and charges to the facility itself.

One restaurant takes orders until 4:30 in the morning, though, so if you need a place to stay overnight and grab an early breakfast before catching the first train, Thermae-Yu is also a great option. Post-midnight use of the facility attracts additional charges, starting from 1,650 yen, but that brings an overnight stay in one of the chill-out areas to 3,835 yen, which is an incredibly cheap deal for a night in Kabukicho, and even more of a bargain considering all the amazing baths on offer.

And if you want to grab a bite to eat in the area, you can always try this Kabukicho gyoza restaurant, which is open 24 hours a day and run by former prisoners.

Bathhouse information
Thermae-yu / テルマー湯
Address: Tokyo-to, Shinjuku-ku, Kabukicho 1-1-2

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