Saturday, November 10, 2012

I Love ゆ Android App! *無料* *Free*


All around excellent guy Dmytry in Osaka built a great little Android app based on the site. He's a sento fan himself and used the site to find many great places. I was so happy to hear that he liked it so much to make this wonderful app. Sadly, I don't have an Android device myself, but if you do check it out!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

One sento, one supersento in Osaka added


I added Taihei no Yu, Nanba and Sakuranomiya Onsen to the Osaka reviews. Both turned out to be great places although neither had a natural onsen. Taihei is part of a chain that has a supersento near Suma that I've been two once. Very clean and has a few carbonated baths which are nice if that's your thing. Sakuranomiya is a very small, typical Osaka sento. Great mosaic of Fuji-san on the back and only 2 minutes from the station.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wonderful Video Introducing Onsen

Only one comment. I have met Japanese that didn't like going to the Onsen! 信じられへん!

Hat tip to Onsen Soaker for this one.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Yu~Raku near Juso in Osaka Added

Uploaded a really short review of Yu~Raku. Sorry couldn't remember much about this nicely located sento a 10 minute walk from Juso on the Hankyu line. It's a soft water place which is always great.

Check out the full review here

Monday, January 9, 2012

Rakutenchi Onsen in Tenma Added


Last night I was able to check out this little sento in Tenma. Had a great time but not a place for beginners. Read the full review here.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

I Love ゆ Newsletter No. 4 - January 2012

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I Love ゆ Newsletter No. 4 - January 2012
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In this newsletter:

1)    Site updates.
2)    This issue’s recommended spot.

 *******

Happy New Year!
I hope all my readers get to enjoy some great hot springs this year!

1)    Site updates

Sakai is finally finished. A few really good super-sento are located in Sakai, including a brilliant little sento with a natural hot spring. All of the Sakai spots can be found here

Sakai: http://iloveyu.jp/Reviews/osaka/sakai/sakai.html

I've added a new supersento in Kakogawa, Hyogo. Akane no Yu is a great little super-sento with a ton of bubbly baths, but no natural hot spring.

Akane no Yu: http://iloveyu.jp/Reviews/Hyogo/hyogo/hyogo/akane.html

I've also updated the photos at the great Pokapo in rural Kato city.

Pokapo: http://iloveyu.jp/Reviews/Hyogo/hyogo/hyogo/pokapo.html

In Osaka city I've added a great neighborhood sento near Sekime station on the Keihan line. Super local with a great feel. Totally recommended for an authentic sento experience.

Suzuran Onsen: http://iloveyu.jp/Reviews/osaka/osaka/osaka/shimizu.html

2)    This issue’s recommended spot.

Sakai has a great number of sento and super-sento. Most of them with in a short walk from one of the many railways that run through the city. Here's an extra unique one among many unique sento in the city. Minatoshio-Yu actually pumps saltwater in from the Osaka bay, cleans it, heats it up and pumps it into the baths. What was once a common practice in the sento in the area is now only found here. So enjoy a nice saltwater bath but watch out for any little cuts! Ouch!

Minanoshio-Yu: http://iloveyu.jp/Reviews/osaka/sakai/sakai/minatoshio.html

*******

Happy new year! I've been doing this for 3 years now as I Love Yu and another one or two as Kansai Onsen Review. Hopefully the site will get more polished in 2012 and I can begin to do some more promotions for it. Coming up I've got a bunch of great places including a few in Shiga and one in Tsuruga, Fukui that I just adored.

Thank you for subscribing and, as always, can contact me in the comments or by email.

Friday, September 2, 2011

I Love ゆ Newsletter No. 3 - September 2011

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I Love ゆ Newsletter No. 3 - September 2011
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In this newsletter:

1)    Site updates.
2)    This issue’s recommended spot.

*******

1)    Site updates

With Hyogo prefecture finished, I have moved on to Osaka first dealing with those sento and supersento in the city’s borders. Looking at this finished list I can think of a few places that I have been to but omitted due to poor note taking. Overall there is a good sampling of the what’s on offer within the city including some amazing natural springs that shouldn't be missed. There are 22 reviews of active sento and one remembrance of a great sento that closed since my visit.

Osaka city: http://iloveyu.jp/Reviews/osaka/osaka/osakacity.html

2)    This issue’s recommended spot.

I can’t recommend Shigino Kengon Onsen more. My first trip here was somewhat of the impetus for what became the I Love Yu project. Shigino is a gem of a sento with great staff and a truly amazing spring. I can’t write much more than what is already on the review so check it out there.

Shigino Kengon Onsen: http://iloveyu.jp/Reviews/osaka/osaka/osaka/shigino.html

*******

And that’s it for No.3. Thank you for subscribing. I hope you’re all enjoying some baths and that you had a great summer vacation. Since having a baby and going to the gym, my sento time has really been cut into. Hopefully sometime this weekend I’ll be able to get out of the house for a few hours.

Sakai city is next on my list. I’ll try to visit a few more around there before uploading my reviews. If you have any tips in Sakai please send them my way. As always you can contact me in the comments or by email.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Sento in China Facing the Same Problems as those in Japan




Reader Mark tipped me off to this article from the LA Times about the disappearing Chinese sentos. According to the article new development is to blame. The sento featured in the article was the location for the Chinese language film "Shower" which I hadn't heard of before but has an 86% at Rotten Tomatoes.

This is all the more pertinent given that I just found out that Tanabe Onsen (田辺温泉) in Osaka city closed sometime in early 2009. Going through my database to begin uploading my Osaka reviews I came across the 口コミ (word of mouth) page about Tanabe on @nifty.

One commentator saying:
"Yes, It's really closed."
"There was a chain across the entrance"
"I was shocked as I recalled the memories [of Tanabe]"

Previous comments state that the owner had to undergo medical care. That was in 2009 and three years later the onsen has yet to re-open. I hope the owner is healthy. It would be good to see Tanabe reopen as it was a wonderful sento that I have recommended to people before. As the generation that built the current sento infrastructure gets older and their children more and more take up other professions we will only see the number of sento continue to decline.

Here's my original post from Kansai Onsen Review:
http://kansaionsen.blogspot.com/2007/10/blog-post.html

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Yupika - Ono, Hyogo - Updated


The review of Yupika in Ono, Hyogo was just updated with new pictures and more information about the wonderful baths there. Make sure to try the local Ono beer!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

I Love ゆ Newsletter No. 2 - June 2011

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I Love ゆ Newsletter No. 2 - June 2011
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In this newsletter:

1) Site updates.
2) This issue’s recommended spot.

1) Site updates.
I have competed 20 reviews of mostly supersento from around Hyogo. Most of them more easily accessible by car, but there are a few that you can get to by train. Ebisu-Yu standing out as one of the best with an amazing spring feeding two outdoor-ish baths

Ebisu-Yu: http://iloveyu.jp/Reviews/Hyogo/hyogo/hyogo/ebisu.html
Hyogo: http://iloveyu.jp/Reviews/Hyogo/hyogo/hyogo.html

2) This issue’s recommended spot.

One supersento that my wife and I keep on saying that we want to return to is Nehime-no-Yu tucked up in rural Kasai city. The recommended course to get here by public transport on their website involves taking a highway bus and getting off at one of those lonely bus stops on the freeway and walking 5 minutes! Using trains won’t help much either, it’s 15 minutes by car from Hojomachi 北条町 station on the Hojo Dentetsu line or Yashirocho 社町 station on the JR Kakogawa line. It’s the most inaccessible place in this batch of reviews, so why am I recommending it? We just really enjoyed going here. The countryside is beautiful. We arrived just as the sun was setting and sky was beautiful. Inside it was filled with friendly locals. The baths were simple but comfortable. A Japanese garden covers a slope that makes up the rear of the rotenbro providing something to look at as you soak. I could imagine that this would be a great place for a midday soak with the sun out anytime of year.

Nehime no Yu: http://iloveyu.jp/Reviews/Hyogo/hyogo/hyogo/nehime.html

Did you even know there was a Hojo Dentestu? It use to be a JR line that was sold to the local municipality when JR was broken up and privatized in the 80’s. It’s a fun short ride and a good day trip for train fans in the Kansai area. I wrote about Hojo Dentetsu in my post about the now defunct Miki Dentetsu on my Japan blog.

Hojo Dentetsu on sleepytako: http://sleepytako.blogspot.com/2008/02/death-and-life-of-japanese-railways.html

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I’ll leave No. 2 at that. I’ll be working on Osaka next and I have some great recommendations coming up in that batch.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

I Love ゆ Newsletter No. 1 - March 2011

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I Love ゆ Newsletter No. 1 - March 2011
**********************************************************

In this newsletter:

1) Welcome and thanks!
2) Site updates.
3) News
4) This issue’s recommended spot.

1) Welcome and thanks!
Thank you all for subscribing to this little newsletter I hope that you’ll find the information inside useful and interesting. I’m trying to spend as much of my free time getting my reviews edited and up on the site and I thank you for your patience.

2) Site updates.
As of right now the Kobe city, Amagasaki city, and Nishinomiya city pages are online for a total of 64 reviews. The next group will be the rest of Hyogo prefecture, and once that is done I’ll be moving on to Osaka city.
Kobe: http://iloveyu.jp/Reviews/Hyogo/kobe/kobe.html
Amagasaki: http://iloveyu.jp/Reviews/Hyogo/ama/ama.html
Nishinomiya: http://iloveyu.jp/Reviews/Hyogo/nishinomiya/nishi.html

4) News.
A new foot bath, Momiji No Aishyu (もみじの足湯), is opening up in front of Hankyu Minoh Station in Minoh city, Osaka. The grand opening is set for Sunday, March 27. The foot bath will be open from 10am till 4pm with longer hours on weekends, holidays and during the fall colors in November. It will be closed on Thursdays. The admission is set at ¥150 yen which includes an original hand towel.

PDF Press release from Hankyu [Japanese]: http://holdings.hankyu-hanshin.co.jp/ir/data/ER201102222N1.pdf
Hankyu’s “Blog de Virtual Ekicho” has photos and more information [Japanese]: http://www.ekiblo.jp/user/sp_yukari_renta/sp16/17666.html

4) This issue’s recommended spot.
Each issue I’ll be recommending a sento and for the first I’d like to recommend Kua Mukogawa. It’s a short walk from Hanshin Mukogawa station. The exterior appears to be a normal sento, but it’s a newly reformed one on the inside. Last year the entire bathing area was rebuilt. You’ll love their strong jet baths and the great outdoor hot spring bath. This is a real deal hot spring. Many places have nice simple hot springs that let them advertise as being a natural hot spring, but it doesn’t really matter either way as the experience is mostly in the tubs and the normal baths. Kua is different. When you see the brown calcium deposits all around the tub and the opaque brown mineral rich water thats filling it, you’ll know that this is truly a natural hot spring. The water is somewhat like that of Arima Onsen and for ¥410 you’re getting a great deal. So a perfect--but somewhat narrow--sento experience plus a great hot spring for a very reasonable price. Highly recommended.

The neighborhood surrounding Kua is also worth checking out. Hanshin Mukogawa station is unique for being built entirely on a bridge near the mouth of the Mukogawa River. The west exit, the one you’ll use to get to Kua puts you out in Nishinomiya city while the east exit provides access to Amagasaki city.

North of the train tracks about a ten minute walk is a great Japanese sweets shop called Saikaen 彩花苑 that sells Karinto manjyu かりんどう饅頭. These brown ball shaped manjyu are the best that I’ve ever had. Crunchy on the outside while soft and chewy on the inside. Worth checking out if your a manjyu fan.

Kua Mukogawa: http://iloveyu.jp/Reviews/Hyogo/nishinomiya/kua.html
Saikaen homepage [in Japanese]: http://www.saikaen.jp/
Saikaen map: http://goo.gl/iSSEI

Well, that’s it for No. 1.

Any comments or questions are always appreciated. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Newsletter!

I've set up a newsletter for site updates and things like that. I suspect it will come out once a month. I've your interested please click the banner below to sign up.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Site Update!

I've be doing a lot of work over at iloveyu.jp.


Kobe city and Nishinomiya data is online. I also rearranged some of the graphics. Getting rid of GIMP and moving to Pixelmator made live so much easier.


I'll also be integrating this blog into the site itself thanks to a Rapidweaver plugin I just found.


Here's my current map of uploaded reviews.


Here's the lists for Kobe and Nishinomiya

Off to a basketball game!

Friday, January 15, 2010

New Website

It's still being developed, and none of the onsen or sento are listed yet, but please check out my new site I Love ゆ for everything sento.

again that's iloveyu.jp

Monday, September 21, 2009

Why no updates?

I'm making a website to host my reviews, along some other ofuro goodies. It's been taking me longer than I thought, but it should be up by the end of fall. I've got I whole bunch of new reviews coming too. I know this is taking much longer than I thought, but when it's done I think you'll all like it.

Thanks,

David


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

#52 灘温泉 水道筋店 Nada Onsen Suidosuji

灘温泉 水道筋店
Nada Onsen Suidosuji


Location:
神戸市灘区水道筋1丁目26番地

Hyogo-ken, Kobe-shi, Nada-ku


Access:

10 minute walk from Hankyu Oji-koen station. (阪急
王子公園駅)

Water:
Natural spring water. Sodium, bicarbonate, cloride spring with a neutral pH.

Holiday:
The first Thursday of March, June, November, and December.

Hours:

05:00~24:00


Price:

Baths - ¥410

Baths and Sauna - ¥560


Links:

Nada Onsen Homepage

Baths:

Heated well water, straight spring water, jet baths, electric bath, waterfall bath, rotenbro (outdoor bath)

Sauna:

Dry sauna with TV

Review:
  • Water Quality 4/5
    I love the water here it's cool, but it warms your inside. If you go into the luke warm bath with the straight spring water you're body will soon be covered in bubbles from the natural carbonation in the water. It's like bathing in metallic smelling San Pellegrino. One of the most relaxing baths ever.
  • Baths and Saunas 4/5
    The electric bath is just strong enough, the jets positioned well, the waterfall bath is nice and strong it's just perfect. The rotenbro, and other two spring water baths are well built with nice materials especially the heated spring water bath which has very nice shaped stone walls and benches.
  • Building Design 4/5
    The fixtures are pretty basic but there are some high points, the raised stone walkways for example.
  • Atmosphere-Other 4/5
    I love this place. There are lots of great signs promoting good manners which are fun to read. The chilled water in the changing room is a nice touch. But, and this is out of the control of the staff, its often too crowded. The straight spring water bath is like finding a place in a sardine can. If you go here when it's busy the water might not be as clean as it could be and you might have to wait to find a spot in your favorite bath. There's always a few gangsters here, but they typically are smiling and happy. I've had a few conversations with random people here and enjoyed them
  • Total 16/20
Notes:
While this place is good anytime, I recommend going on a hot afternoon. The lukewarm straight spring water bath might be packed, but you'll know why when you get in.


There is a great old beer vending machine across from the onsen. They sell Asahi Black in cans which tastes great after a nice bath.


Parking in the lot next to the onsen is free if you get it validated inside.

They have two onsen in their group the smaller second one is near JR Rokkomichi station. I have reviewed it here

Additional Photos:


Tuesday, March 31, 2009

#14-2 花山温泉 Hanayama Onsen (Second Look)

花山温泉
Hanayama Onsen
(Second Look)


IMG 2820

Location:
和歌山県和歌山市鳴神574
Wakayama-shi, Wakayama-ken

Access:
A 10 minute taxi ride from JR-Wakayama station

Water:
Natural spring water with carbon dioxide, iron, calcium, magnesium, sodium, and bicarbonate. pH 6.4

Holiday:
Every Thursday

Hours:
08:00-23:00

Price:
Baths and Sauna: ¥1000
After hours (18:00~close): ¥600

Baths:
Spring water bath 26c, spring water bath 36c, Spring water bath 41c, Spring water rotenbro, jet bath, waterfall bath

Sauna:
Dry sauna


Review:
  • Water Quality 5/5
    In my top 5 for water quality the brown claylike water here makes you feel perfect. I can't recommend it more. People go there for the water.
  • Baths and Saunas 4/5
    The only reason I don't give this a 5 is because I wish the sauna was hotter, otherwise it's great. The bathing area is simple, but well designed. The largest 41c degree bath has some shallow and deep grottos for finding a great little place to go. There are some bars in the bath to lean against or hang on. All of the spring water baths have been calcified by all the minerals in the spring water either making soft wave shapes that looks like clay or chocolate ice cream, or a shaper ridged shape that must be seen to believe. Outside the rotenbro looks out to a simple but pleasing garden.
  • Building Design 5/5
    It's a perfect old onsen style building. Some of the floors creak. There are pipes carrying water through out the building. Hallways seem longer then they should be. Once inside the building you forget where you are. It helps make this place seem so otherworldly.
  • Atmosphere-Other 4/5
    If it's crowded you might have to wait for a space, mostly in the 26c degree bath which people take a long time in, but everyone here is very civil. People, unless they are with a friend or family member, seem to go into a trance here just taking in the great water. I once asked a fellow bather to read a kanji for me and he was very nice when helping me understand what it meant. The crowding and the lack of free lockers for your stuff knocks this down from a 5, otherwise everything here is great.
  • Total 18/20
Notes:

You can drink the water here. In the hallway leading to the the baths there's a sink and a spigot across from it with the spring water for drinking. It tastes great.

Please splash your self off with clear water before entering the normal baths.

Make sure to look around and check out all the signs they have posted about the onsen, especially the one with the photo of the calcification in one of the pipes carrying the spring water. I hope my arteries don't look like that.

This is also a hotel so you can spend the night here.

Like I said above, there are no keyed lockers for free in the changing room. There is a rack of coin lockers but they cost ¥100 so leave your stuff in your car or make sure you have a ¥100 on you before you enter.

I recently went here for the first time after sunset. I have to say that going here in the daytime is the best. The hotter it is outside makes it better too. Hanayama really shines for a afternoon soak.

The supermarket down the street from Hanayama has some great food.

I originally reviewed this onsen on September 23, 2007. The photos are from that original review.

IMG 2821IMG 2822IMG 2823IMG 2825IMG 2826

#4-2 Arimafuji Onsen Hanayama no Yu 有馬富士温泉花山乃湯 Second Look

有馬富士温泉花山乃湯
Arimafuji Onsen Hanayama no Yu  
(Second Look)


IMG 0188

Location:
兵庫県三田市尼寺835-1
Sanda-shi, Hyogo-ken

Access:
Shinki bus from Sanda station (JR or Shintetsu). Take bus #24 heading to 乙原バレイ

Water:
Natural spring water. Well temp 30.2C. pH 8.

Holiday:
every third Thursday of the month

Hours:
10:00-23:00

Price:

Baths and Sauna - ¥600

Links:
Arimafuji Onsen Homepage

Baths:
rotenbro, waterfall showers, deep and shallow normal bath, jet baths

Sauna:
Dry sauna with TV

Review:
  • Water Quality 4/5
    Great soft water in the normal baths leaves your skin slippery soft and the spring water in the
    rotenbro is just as clear and soft feeling
  • Baths and Saunas 5/5
    There are two different bathing areas that change from men to women each day. They have a wooden and stone motif. All of the wood looks fresh and alive while the stones show their age with grace. The tiles on the floor which have just enough grip yet feel smooth are great on your feet. The jets are all my favorite single or sunflower style direct streams.
  • Building Design 4/5
    As I said with the baths everything is really nice. It might not seem that way from the outside, and the golf driving range isn't the most beautiful thing, but inside everything seems right to me. It's not the biggest
    supersento and you might bump into someone on occasion. The sauna can fit 3~4 people max. Also soap from the showers pools up on the tiles and doesn't drain well.
  • Atmosphere-Other 4/5
    I had a great chat with some of the
    customers in the sento. Everyone there seemed happy and enjoying themselves. The view from the rotenbro is just a some rice fields and and some forested hills but it's quite refreshing. There always seems to be a nice cool breeze which helps make this place seem fresh. It's easy for me to stay for a while, but for those with kids they might get bored fast here. It's too peaceful.
  • Total 17/20

Notes:

The bathing areas are different and they change daily.

There is a golf driving range in the same building as the
sento. They have club rentals if you want to hit a few balls.

I've only been here in the afternoon and I have to say that a lot of the appeal of this
onsen is how bright and refreshing it is in the afternoon. I cannot recommend more going there on a nice sunny day.

There is often a tent set up in the parking lot selling fruits and vegetables. I've gotten some great
mikan there and some very good and very cheap strawberries.

I originally reviewed this
sento on June 4, 2007 where I gave it a much lower score. What was I thinking!

The photo above is from the original review.

Monday, March 30, 2009

#51 Yu~Bath Sakai Hamadera ユ〜バス 堺浜寺店

ユ〜バス 堺浜寺店
Yu~ Bath Sakai Hamadera




Type: Onsen Supersento

Location:
堺市西区浜寺船尾町東1丁108番
Osaka-fu, Sakai-shi

Access: 10 minute walk from the Hankai streetcar Ishizu station. (阪堺 石津)

Water: Natural hotspring. Sodium and calicum high temperature spring. Well temp 51.2C

Holiday: The 1st Monday of the month

Hours: 06:00~03:00 (The next day)

Price: All Baths - ¥700 Morning bath (6:00~12:00) - ¥500 Normal baths (no access to the spring water) - ¥420

Links: Onsen Homepage

Baths: Shallow and deep normal baths, showers, jet baths, bubble baths, rotenbro, spring water bath

Saunas: Dry sauna, salt sauna

Review:

  • Water Quality 2/5
    The spring water was quite nice and obvously from a nice well, but it was only one bath. The normal indoor baths were nice, but the "Royal" baths all felt dirty.
  • Baths and Saunas 1/5
    There was a lot of diversity in the baths, but they all seemed dirty, the rotenbro especially. The salt sauna had a very strong unpleasant smell and the dry sauna, while nice and hot, was dirty and had holes in the walls.
  • Building Design 2/5
    If you supersized a typical sento you'd get this place. The design in the normal bath area was stoic, while the "Royal" area had a bit more thought given to the design--but not much. The rotenbro was all white in a Greco-Roman theme. The palm tree out there was half-dead with fake palms attached to the trunk. The indoor spring water bath had a rocky theme with a geometric waterfall which I did enjoy.
  • Atmosphere-Other 3/5
    Located next to a freeway onramp, a few love hotels, chain restaurants, this was the most truckstop-esque of all the supersento I've been to. The staff was pleasant and the costumers all seemed to mind their own business and not interact much with each other. The beer I had tasted rancid.
  • Total 8/20

Notes:

This is the worst grade I've ever given a place on this blog. I feel bad, but I really didn't enjoy my time here. This chain has 3 more supersento in Kansai and I hope they are better than this one. The spring water was very nice, I wish they exploited it better.

The men's and women's sides at this supersento are different. They change each week. I went to the right hand side bath, closest to the door.

Additional Photos:




Sunday, March 29, 2009

#50 Tokiwa Onsen トキワ温泉

トキワ温泉
Tokiwa Onsen


Type: Onsen Sento


Location:

大阪府堺市神明町西3-129

Osaka-fu, Sakai-shi


Access: 3 minute walk from the Hankai streetcar Shinmecho station (阪堺 神明町)

Water: Natural Hotspring: weak alkaline

Holiday: The 1st, 3rd, and 5th Monday of every month

Hours: 15:00~23:00

Price: Baths: ¥410 Bath and Sauna (incl. towel rental): ¥510

Links: Onsen News Blog (Great photos of the inside and a poster from the onsen) | Onsen Hopper

Baths: Deep, shallow and jet baths all 100% spring fed, cold water bath

Saunas: Dry Sauna

Review:

  • Water Quality 4/5
    Opening the door to the bathing area the smell just hit me. Wow, this is exactly the kind of place that I love. A great old sento that looks like it's been here for years, filled with local history and just enough dust. The water was decent, but it was straight from the ground. No heating, cooling or mixing with municipal water. That's what this place is: a hotspring fed into a few baths. The smell was nice and the feel was good. Not the best water, but worth going back.
  • Baths and Sauna 4/5
    The design is quite simple, but classic for a little sento like this one. It appeared to me that the jet baths were added on in a remodel, but I could be wrong about that. The center bath has a two level design with the upper bath being hotter and shallower. The cold bath is small, but enough space for one to sit in. Sitting at the kake-yu to rinse off was very refreshing. The sauna is accessed from the changing room. Not much to it, but good enough.
  • Building Design 4/5
    The whole place is super small in comparison to most sento. The reason for this place being here is the hotspring--that's it, but that's all that it needs. The main bath is well built and full of good places to sit. There's a nice mosaic of Mt. Fuji on the back wall and the mirrors have old advertisements for nearby businesses. The men's bathroom is outside in an enclosed patio that is accessed from the changing room. There's a little sitting area there with an ashtray that in the summer would be a great place for a nice post bath smoke.
  • Atmosphere-Other 4/5
    This old building has a very utilitarian feel to it. Lots of old exposed wood and notices written on old sheets of paper. The customers seemed part of a large family that have been coming here for years many of them greeting each other when they came and left. I loved how busy the place was and all of the buckets filled with soap and shampoo placed around the bathing area. The entire place had a sense of agelessness that really made the entire experience special.
  • Total 16/20

Notes:

Getting here you can ride the great Hankai streetcar line which, like this sento, has a living history feel. Tokiwa Onsen is a perfect place to really experience what day-to-day life in postwar Japan might have looked like.

I couldn't have picked a better place for my 50th review. Tokiwa Onsen is the kind of little sento that represent a living history and a way of life that is in danger in Japan, and also not so well known among foreigners.

Additional Photos:




The ticket vending machine

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

#49 Ogo Onsen 大箇温泉

大箇温泉
Ōgo Onsen


Type: Onsen Sento


Location:

兵庫県西宮市津門大箇町7-17

Hyogo-ken, Nishinomiya-shi

Access: 5 minute walk from Hankyu Hanshinkokudo station (阪急 阪神国道) or 10 minutes from Hankyu or Hanshin Imazu station (阪急 今津 or 阪神 今津)

Water: Natural Hotspring: weak alkaline

Holiday: Thursday

Hours: 15:30 - 23:30

Price: Baths: ¥410 Bath and Sauna (incl. towel rental): ¥510

Links: Homepage

Baths: Deep bath, shallow jet baths*, deep jet baths, cold water bath x2, big shower, waterfall bath, rotenbro*
*hot spring water used

Saunas: Dry Sauna

Review:
  • Water Quality 4/5
    Not only does Ogo onsen offer a great natural hotspring, but it's normal baths and showers have the greatest soft water. I love soft water, it makes you feel slippery, as if you didn't rince the soap off well enough. The main, always piping hot soft water bath is more enjoyable for me than the spring water rotenbro (outdoor bath) even! This isn't to say that the spring is bad. I quite like it. It's slimilar to Futaba and Hamada near by.
  • Baths and Sauna 4/5
    While small over all, everything is fit in quite well and it acutally seems much bigger. The rotenbro is triangle shaped with a nice view of the sky. The main indoor bath is quite deep and always piping hot. They have a great super srong jet that I always use. There are two showers, both cold water, that are agreat in the summer. The sauna has a seprate cold water bath. The only thing missing is a good place to sit. There are two seats outside, but I never find them that comforatable.
  • Building Design 3/5
    The bathing areas were remodeled sometime in 2005 or 2006, so much of he tile and the fixtures at the showers are new. There is a small, inch high step going into the larger cold water bath that I have stubbed my toe rather painfully on twice to watch out for.
  • Atmosphere-Other 4/5
    I always have a good time here and I've bumped into people I've met while bartending near-by. There are a fair share of yakuza that go to Ogo but they all seem to interact well with the customers. Many of the people here seem to know eachother. The front staff is always very nice. They have a free computer with internet for people to use and a giant TV in the lobby.

  • Total 15/20
Notes:

This is my place to go on Wednesdays because many sento in the Nishinomiya area take Wednesdays off.

Additional Photos:

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

#48 Enmei-yu 延命湯

延命湯
Enmei-yu


Type: Sento


Location:

大阪市福島区福島5-12-5

Osaka-shi, Fukushima-ku


Access: 5 minute walk from JR Fukushima JR福島, JR Shin-Fukushima JR新福島 or Hanshin Fukushima 阪神 福島 stations.

Water: Normal

Holiday: Tuesday (I might be wrong)

Hours: 15:00 - 24:00

Price: Baths: ¥350

Links:
Onsen Hopper | Ofuroya-san Shokaijyo | Spa Michiken

Baths: Deep and shallow bath with jets and bubbles | Cold Showers | Cold water rotenbro | Hot water rotenbro

Saunas: Steam

Review:

  • Water Quality 3/5
    Normal Osaka city water, but good quality.
  • Baths and Sauna 3/5
    The design of the main bath is nice and curvy and the deep area is very nice, but the jets are weak and pushed into a cramped corner. The sauna is nice, but the time I went it wasn't as hot as I remembered it being. The rotenbro baths are both small and a little shallow.
  • Building Design 5/5
    Done in a exposed concrete style with emphasis on curves the design of Enmei-yu makes it worth a trip here. The layout is basic bandai style with separate entrances for men and women. In the wide bright changing room the lockers curve in and out as they direct you to the entrance for the baths. The toilet is located in the front end of the changing room off of an little concrete alcove. Everything seems like it was the day it was opened. Of course it's shows signs of age, but it's not dirty like some places get.
  • Atmosphere-Other 4/5
    The person in the bandai (the front reception area) is always cheerful and the costumers seem very happy. I had a nice chat with a fellow gaijin here the first time I came. Everyone seems to be enjoying their own time. And the price, at only ¥350 well below the local ¥410 price, you can't make a better choice for a quick bath near Umeda.
  • Total 15/20

Notes:

The holiday information might be wrong.

The name, Enmei 延命, means longevity.

They also sell some sento-sodas. See the Ofuroya-san Shokaijyo home page for more info. In Japanese.

Additional Photos:

Monday, February 23, 2009

#47 Ebisu-yu 恵美寿湯

恵美寿湯
Ebisu-yu
Type: Onsen Sento

Location:
兵庫県明石市貴崎4−6−12
Akashi-shi, Hyogo-ken

Access: 5 minute walk from Sanyo Hayashisaki-Matsuekaigan station 山陽 林崎松江海岸.

Water: Natural hot spring: Iron, calcium, and sodium spring with neutral pH. Well temp. 27.8°C

Holiday: Monday. If Monday is a public holiday then the shop will be open and close on Tuesday instead.

Hours: 15:00 - 23:00

Price: Baths: ¥380. If you want to stay in the bath longer than 2 hours they have a "W ticket" which is ¥760.

Links:
Onsen Hopper | Akashi no Onsen | Yahoo blog with interior photos

Baths: Deep and shallow bath with jets, bubbles, and electric bath, jet bath, cold water shower, heated spring water rotenbro, warm temperature spring water rotenbro.

Saunas: N/A

Review:

  • Water Quality 5/5
    Very much like the water at Arima onsen, but without the price or all of the crowds Ebisu-yu's spring is a well known local secret. The mineral rich water feels like raw clay. Heated it feels thicker, the warm ambient well temperature bath is near body temperature and is great for cooling off in. The normal baths always feel nice and hot too. This is also the only hot spring that I know which is pH neutral. Doing a cycle of heating up and cooling down in the warm spring water bath is recommended would totally relax anybody.
  • Baths and Sauna 3/5
    The design of the baths seems to work well. The main indoor bath is somewhat hard to navigate in, but it works. The deep and shallow areas offer many sitting places. Outside the warm bath has a more Japanese design with a spout which is very nice, while next to it is the heated spring water bath fed by a wide waterfall which has a brown 70's feel to it.
  • Building Design 4/5
    The rotenbro is more of an enclosed patio area with a glass roof. There are openings in the roof that are open or closed depending on the weather. That roof is a highlight. I love the colored glass tiles. It's not that big, nor do I think it's that special, but I really like it. It's got a Midwest grandparents house feel to it. Coming during the daylight hours makes this bath much more refreshing because of the colored roof.
  • Atmosphere-Other 3/5
    I have been here twice. Once in the summer right at 3 right when they opened and while there were a handful of customers so it wasn't too crowded to be a problem. It was so nice and refreshing to go there then. The most recent time I went it was on a Sunday, which is also free for children kindergarten age and under. It was packed. I really couldn't enjoy myself at all. This is a very small sento and it is very popular in the area and on those busy days it might be best to go somewhere else. Something must be said about the the wonderful staff who always seem very nice and friendly. It's a little local secret type of place in a cute, eclectic little neighborhood of subsidized housing, factories, and private homes.
  • Total 15/20

Notes:

I might have got the prices wrong, I forgot to write them down. I did get their pamphlet and I'll double check later today.

I have to say that Hayashisaki-Matsuekaigan is one of the longest station names ever. If the name is hard to remember for you Hayashisaki-Matsuekaigan is the second stop after Akashi on a local train heading towards Himeji. Only local trains stop there.

Additional Photos:



An advertisement for Ebisu-yu at Hayashisaki-Matsuekaigan station.

#13-2 Futaba Onsen 双葉温泉

双葉温泉
Futaba Onsen
Type: Onsen Sento


Location:
兵庫県西宮市分銅町2-28
Nishinomiya city, Hyogo pref.

Access: 10 minute walk from Hankyu Shukugawa station 阪急 夙川 or Hanshin Nishinomiya 阪神 西宮.

Water: Natural hot spring: Sodium, hot temperature, weak carbonation, weak alkaline. Well temp. 44.7°C

Holiday: Wednesday

Hours: 15:00 - 23:30

Price: Baths and Sauna: ¥410. Pay at desk or at the ticket machine

Links:
Onsen Hopper | Spa Michiken

Baths: Deep and shallow bath with jets and electric bath, cold water bath, spring water bath with bubbles, warm spring water bath, spring water rotenbro, outside cold shower.

Saunas: dry sauna (¥130)


Review:

  • Water Quality 3/5
    The hot spring is brownish with a light iron smell that stains the areas and leaves a calcium crust near it much like Hamada or Ogo onsens in the area. While the water is good, it's in no way the main focus of this sento. I've always thought the normal bath and the rotenbro were the main features.
  • Baths and Sauna 4/5
    The main normal bath is always piping hot. The design is such that there are many little corners to sit or stretch out in. Sadly there are only two strong, but placed pretty low so good for feet or lower back but not much for the upper back here. I love the rotenbro here. It takes up about 40% of the entire bathing area. It's decorated by a nice waterfall rock feature with real plants. The view is straight up into the sky. In the summer coming here when around dusk out makes sitting around the rotenboro an absolute treat. You can pass out there for a long time, they even have a sign warning people about staying in the bath for too long. The other hot spring baths are very nice, but the bubbling one is placed in a conspicuous spot right in front of the door to the changing room that might deter some bathers.
  • Building Design 3/5
    I love the great big ゆ sign in the parking lot along with the hot spring waterfall out by the sidewalk. In side the changing room and small lobby is basic but welcoming.
  • Atmosphere-Other 4/5
    The family that runs the sento seem nice enough. I've seen people I know and my students here often as I live in the neighborhood here. Also the rotenbro and the cold shower in the summer gives the entire place a bonus point.
  • Total 14/20

Notes:
I have previously reviewed this sento, but I am rewriting the review as I have changed my format.

The locals like to cover the drain for the rotenbro making it overflow, you'll notice a small CCTV camera pointed in that area. I like it when they do it (if you go when they do it you'll understand) and I never take the bucket that's covering the drain off, but I'd never put it there myself.

Recently Futaba, along with many other sento in Hyogo, raised its prices to ¥410. This was agreed upon by the public bathhouse assiocation in Hyogo. Kyoto and Osaka prefectures raised their rates to ¥410 in 2008. This is the maximum price, some places do charge less.

Futaba is also special for me because it was the first sento I went to, and for a long time the only one I knew of. As an exchange student I would go there at least once a week, but typically more often. It's the closest thing I have to a local sento and I like it.

Additional Photos:

Sunday, February 8, 2009

#46 Kyogoku-yu - 京極湯

京極湯
Kyogoku-Yu
Type: Sento

Location:
京都府京都市右京区西京極西川町39−7
Kyoto-fu, Kyoto-shi

Access: 5 minute walk from Hankyu Nishikyogoku station 阪急 西京極.

Water: Normal

Holiday: Monday

Hours: 15:00 - 23:00

Price: Baths and Sauna: ¥410. Pay at desk.

Links:
None

Baths: Deep and shallow bath with jets, electric bath, jet baths, cold water bath, rotenbro, outside cold shower.

Saunas: dry sauna (free)

Review:
  • Water Quality 2/5
    Plain city water, but it must have been filtered because it was very clear and clean feeling. The rotenbro had a strong chlorine smell.
  • Baths and Sauna 2/5
    Basic design, very clean and nice new tile. The rotenbro is in a nice spot outside that would be refreshing in the summer. The sauna's thermometer mounted high on the wall said it was 110ºC in there. I thought it was nice and hot, but not sure if it was that hot. Also the cold water bath is filled from a tap high enough to stand under. It felt great putting my head under it after baking in the sauna--after splashing off my sweaty body outside of the bath of course!
  • Building Design 3/5
    This is a brand new sento. The previous building was demolished and the family rebuilt next door. This is a very traditional sento where the family lives above the bathhouse area. You can see the house's front door to the left of the sento's entrance. The brand new feeling is interesting, but it's not yet decorated and needs a few plants or something to cheer up the space--the rotenbro in particular. Currently there is not much out there and it feels like the hot tub in a chain hotel in America. Not a bad thing, however kind of nostalgic.
  • Atmosphere-Other 3/5
    Everyone here knew each other. There was a conference of local Oji-sans going on in the changing room when I got out of the bath. The staff was very nice and I enjoyed being there. They also have a great selection of what I call sento-drinks. These are glass bottle sodas that look like they have been around, and haven't changed since the 60's. I had a sweet one called Royal Pet. (See photo below)
  • Total 10/20
Notes:
Nice little hometown place. I'm glad places like this still have enough business to rebuild like they did. It gives me hope that sentos will be around for my children.

Additional Photos:

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

#45 Kua Mukogawa - クア武庫川

クア武庫川
Kua Mukogawa
Location:
兵庫県西宮市笠屋町3−10
Hyogo-ken Nishionomiya-shi

Access: 5 minute walk from Hanshin Mukogawa 阪神武庫川 station - west exit.

Water: Natural hot spring: strong sodium. Brown color. pH: 6.54. Well temperature: 58.2℃

Holiday: Thursday

Hours: 15:00 - 24:00

Price: Baths: ¥410. Sauna: ¥220. Buy a ticket at the machine and give it to the receptionist.

Links:
Onsen Hopper | Spa Michiken | Gensen Kakenagashi Onsen wo Motomeru (Good photos of the interior and the hot spring rotenbro.)

Baths: Deep bath, Shallow bath with jets, Jet baths, Electric bath, cold water bath, large standing showers, natural hot spring outdoor bath.

Saunas: steam sauna (free), and dry sauna (fee).


Review:

  • Water Quality 4/5
    Only the rotenbro is filled with the natural hot spring water, but that doesn't mean the water is bad, there's just less access to it. You can easily tell it's real by the amount of brown clay like buildup coating the tub, walls and floors--inside and outside. It reminds me a lot like the Hanayama or Honmachi in Wakayama except this spring is much hotter. It's like bathing in very wet clay, you can feel the difference in the density of the spring water compared to the normal baths inside. Don't get this water on your face or lips, it's high salt content will sting.
  • Baths and Sauna 3/5
    Recently reformed the indoor baths all have brand new fixtures and tile work. The design makes the most of the small space they have with no corner not in use. The lack of any good place to sit because it's so packed is a downside. Sadly all the baths are rather small space wise. They do have one of the best large sunflower jet baths I've been in. The electric baths are the less common large hole type that gives you stronger pulses at a slower interval.
  • Building Design 4/5
    Despite being recently renewed everything still has the airs of an old sento. It is interesting to see how a bath house as old as this can stay in business this long and bring in enough money to remodel. I remember going here back in 2006 before the remodel and looking at the large old TVs they have placed in the changing room for the bathers to watch. The various plugs on the back, different than the antenna jacks common in the USA were interesting to me. Now those ancient TVs have been replaced by sleek new flat screen models. The large metal shelves that once held the old heavy TVs from the ceiling look conspicuously too large for the new flat screens. This year's kanji is hen/変 which means change, or strange, and seeing how an old sento can change can be interesting for an amateur anthropologist .
  • Atmosphere-Other 2/5
    Because they are there it seems that everyone in the bath is glued to the TV. If you like having something to watch in the water, then it's a good thing. If you dislike the intrusion of TVs into daily life, then you might not like it. Personally I enjoyed it, but thankfully there is no TV in the rotenbro. Some places need to be free from TVs. Also, given Kua's popularity with the locals, it seems that it's always busy. You might have to wait for a spot or squeeze in to the bath you want.

  • Total 13/20

Notes:
I believe that they switch baths between the men and women. I don't think there is much difference in the types of baths, but the layout is different. From what I remember the first time I went, I was in the right side. This time I went in the left side. Sadly, Kua does not have a webpage with a map of their bathing areas.

Additional Photos:

Saturday, January 31, 2009

#44 Heso no Yu - へその湯

へその湯
Heso no Yu

Location:
Hyogo-ken Nishiwaki-shi

Access: By car or a 5 minute walk from Hie station 比延駅 on the JR Kakogawa line 加古川線. (Trains to this station might run once an hour or less, so be sure to check a timetable before coming.)

Water: Natural hot spring: weak alkaline (I could not find the well temperature or other information on the well water)

Holiday: The 3rd Thursday of every month.

Hours: 12:00 - 24:00

Price: Baths and sauna Weekdays: ¥500. Weekends and holidays: ¥600. Buy a ticket at the machine and give it to the receptionist.

Links:
Homepage

Baths:
Warm bath with jets, hot bath (both of the indoor hot baths are filled with a different type of water, see Water Quality below), rotenbro (natural well water), individual tub baths (herbal), waterfall bath, cold water bath, shower.

Saunas: Wood side: normal sauna, salt sauna. Stone side: normal sauna, steam sauna


Review:

  • Water Quality 3/5
    One natural well bath plus two onsen meguri baths give you 3 different bathing experiences in one place. Onsen meguri could be translated as "hot spring tour", which is where the baths are filled with normal water that is made to feel like that of various famous onsen from around Japan. I assume it is done by adding some something to the bathwater, but truthfully, I do not know. This is very common for places that do not have access to a good hot spring at their site. I'm going to ignore the onsen meguri for the point of this review, those two baths were fine and very refreshing but they change next month. The water quality in them was very good however. It was so clear that it was almost too clear. The rotenbro was filled with what is billed as natural spring water, but I did not see a sign anywhere with the report on the water's mineral content, pH, well temperature or anything like that. While the water was fine, not telling me exactly what's in the water seems shady. I have one magazine that says this place does not have a natural hot spring well (天然温泉じゃないけど...). I should have, but I didn't ask the lady at the counter if it was or not. Assuming the rotenbro is filled with natural hot spring water, I thought it was nice and it had that great hard, tight feeling on the skin.
  • Baths and Sauna 3/5
    I was in the wood side (木の湯) which I found to be very well built. The wood used to line the baths and decorate was clean and beautiful. It had the rural supersento atmosphere, but it didn't suffer from poor construction that some places do. The bottom of the baths were lined with large stones set with thick grout that felt great to sit on, and the walkways were tiled with smooth pea sized pebbles that massaged my feet as I walked. I really liked the layout and over all design of the baths. The saunas had a nice concept, but failed to truly realize their potential. The normal sauna lacked a TV, something that I like, and in it's place it had a large picture window. Sadly, this window looked out onto a wall. There was ample place between the window and wall to put a nice garden or something to look at, but all that was there was a small stone pagoda that sat atop some gravel unevenly and an extension cord. The salt sauna had a nice window looking out at the rotenbro, but it was too cramped with only 4 chairs seemingly pulled from the restaurant outside to sit on. A stone bench would have been much more welcoming.
  • Building Design 4/5
    I really enjoyed the construction of the bathing areas. Lots of thick wood beams supporting the roof. Japanese style plaster on the walls. Everything looked well built, well with the exception of the saunas. The garden, was stark due to the lack of leaves on the trees, but come spring I could imagine it being quite beautiful and I want to come back to see it.
  • Atmosphere-Other 2/5
    All of the locals there seemed very content. The children in the bath were having fun, but well mannered. The area Heso no Yu is located is somewhat troubling, however. It's in a very industrial part of town with some worse for wear roads leading to it. I crossed a very old looking single track bridge in my car to get there which was mildly unnerving. All of this plus it's location, way out in the middle of nowhere lead to the 2/5 rating.

  • Total 12/20

Notes:

I only have been in the wood side (木の湯), but the stone side (石の湯) appears from the photos I've seen to have a lot of smooth stone lining the baths.

If anyone goes there and if you have the time to ask the staff could you figure out if the rotenbro is actually 原泉. That would be cool. I'm kicking myself for not asking, I just assumed the counter person wouldn't know.

If I lived in, or near Nishiwaki I would be there at least once a week. I would
also head to Nehime no Yu and Pokapo which I've been to but haven't reviewed yet. There's some good bathing in the Kato, Kasai, Nishiwaki if you have a car and time to get out there. You also get to see some beautiful countryside, along with some really gaudy pachinko parlours and love hotels, on the way.

Oh! And why is it called "bellybutton" or heso in Japanese. Well near there is "Japan's Bellybutton Park". 日本へそ公園. It's not a park devoted to bellybuttons, it's the geographic center of Japan. I went there years ago thanks to my love of places where lines cross and geography. You can read about it on my other blog with has directions and more links about the park.

Additional Photos:


Thursday, January 29, 2009

#43 HAT Nagisa no Yu - HATなぎさの湯

HATなぎさの湯
HAT Nagisa no Yu


Location:
兵庫県神戸市中央区脇浜海岸通1丁目3−3‎
Hyogo-ken Kobe-shi Chuo-ku

Access: 10 minute walk from Hanshin Kasuganomichi (春日野道), or a 15 minute walk from Hankyu Kasuganomichi (春日野道). By bus from JR Sannomiya station take the Hanshin Railroad bus headed to 人と防災未来センター.

Water: Natural Hot Spring: sodium and carbonated. Weak Alkaline pH 7.2. Well temp. 35.9°C

Holiday
: None

Hours: 10:00 - 26:00 (the next day)

Price: Baths and sauna: ¥800. Pay at front desk when you receive your locker key.

Links:
Homepage

Baths:
Shallow bath w/ electric bath, cold water bath, herbal bath (changes daily), outdoor well water bath rock lined bath with hotter upper section, separate large tub baths, jet baths.

Saunas:
Men's side: large dry normal sauna, small hot rock sauna.
Women's side: normal sauna, salt sauna, steam aroma sauna


Review:

  • Water Quality 3/5
    The water has a brownish color and does give your skin that nice clay feeling that other onsen like this one do, but the problem is other wells of similar water are just so much better. Takara no Yu in Takarazuka, or Ebisu Onsen in Akashi for example. For some reason, perhaps location, this water never seems hot enough for me. Still very nice, but not the highpoint of this onsen
  • Baths and Sauna 4/5
    There are two major factors that make a trip to Nagisa worthwhile. First is the great view from the rotenbro (see photo below). The rock wall that encloses the rotenbro has two viewing holes from which you can watch the traffic on the freeway and the harbor which I find very refreshing. The second thing is the saunas. At least on the men's side they are great. The rock sauna has a light show before nozzles spray water down on the rocks filling the room with steam. The large tower sauna just feels right, and it has some widows that you can watch people at the park below from.
  • Building Design 4/5
    A nice building but nothing that makes it stand out. The smoking balcony that's connected to the men's changing room is nice. They cover the building with a light show (projected from a big digital projector mounted in the men's rotenbro area) on occasion. I've seen it twice. It looks cool from the freeway also. They do have an outdoor seating area that they use in the summer.
  • Atmosphere-Other 3/5
    I've never had a bad time here, but there isn't much to say about the atmosphere here. It's a nice place and family friendly, but it doesn't have any community feel like smaller sento do. The staff is very helpful.

  • Total 14/20

Notes:

You have to check out the poor English on the warning signs. Some of the best Engrish ever.

The last time I was there I lost my key (it fell down between the wood slats in the big sauna), and forgot my bath kit. The staff was very helpful and got me back into my locker when it was time for me to go. I got my bath kit the next day with no problems either. Everyone there really did a good job even dealing with a big hairy naked white guy.

I wish I could give this place more points. My wife and I go here often, especially when we want a change from the 2-3 places we seem to go to the most. It's location is good if you go to the movie theater or shopping area nearby and make it a day trip. They also have a free foot bath with a great view of the harbor (see photo below).

There is also a gym in the same building.

Additional Photos:

The rear of the building. You can see the two holes where people in the rotenbro can look out from.
The free foot bath.