When I moved to Darwin, one of the few downsides was that it meant being an entire country away from my friends and family back in Adelaide. Over the years, some of those friends have also moved away from Adelaide, making in harder and harder to catch up in person. One such friend is Ethan.
After I moved to Darwin, Ethan moved to Melbourne and we were only able to see each other on very scarce occasions. So, when Ethan had a few weeks free after leaving Canada, it seemed like the perfect excuse to meet up and go on a few adventures.
Initially the plan was to meet in Colombia, but the flights would be so long that it didn’t make a lot of sense. After a while, we settled on meeting in Japan – it felt like the perfect halfway point, and we were both keen to eat our body weight in ramen.
We spent our first night catching up, devouring noodles, navigating our exceptionally teeny AirBnB and planning the days to come.
Our first plan was to take a shinkansen to Hakone to visit an incredibly kitschy onsen, which seemed like a simple enough task, but as it turned out, our day would be a comedy of errors.
We bought our tickets and snacks for the trip and headed to the platform to wait for our train. It was only about two minutes before it was due to depart that we realised that we were on the wrong platform! What followed was a mad dash through Shibuya station which culminated with me getting onto our train… and as the doors started to shut, yelling at Ethan to quickly jump on, but the boy hesitated for a split second too long and then it was too late.
I was on and he was off, and in the spirit of Japanese punctuality, I was immediately zooming off to Hakone.
At first, I just didn’t know what to do, so I found my seat, connected to the wifi and started messaging Ethan. However, within just a few minutes, a lovely Japanese man approached me and asked if I had lost my friend.
Ethan had been helped by a station worker at the platform, who contacted the conductor on my train and informed him of the situation. I was instructed to get off at the next stop, and to get on the next train that would come by, as this was the train Ethan would be on.
So, off I hopped and when I got on the train and saw Ethan, I felt so relieved! We immediately plonked ourselves down in some available seats and began a thorough debrief into what had just gone down.
It wasn’t until about half an hour later that it occurred to us to make sure that we were going in the right direction…
Of course, when we looked on Google Maps, we were not going in the direction we had thought at all, and we quickly learned that not only were we on the wrong train, but we were on an express train to Nagoya, which was a good long way away from Hakone!
Tears of laughter, about 10,000 steps and a few hours later, we finally made it onto the right train and were headed in the right direction.
We made it to Yunessun Spa Resort by around two in the afternoon and we were so damn ready to jump in for a soak!
This particular onsen is known for having multiple novelty spas. It is sold as being a place where you can soak in red wine, green tea and even coffee!
In reality, there are just numerous different themed baths filled with water in varying colours. It’s kinda fun, but is definitely something that looks better on the internet.
However, what the spa lacks inside, it more than made up for outside.
There is a big outdoor spa with waterslides, and when paired with the gorgeous surroundings and falling snow – this became an absolute highlight
Luckily for us, our trip back to Tokyo was much less eventful, and we both slept like babies that evening.
The next morning started with some huge pancakes before heading off for another day of exploring.
We started the day at teamLAB Borderless, a digital art museum that I had seen all over the ‘gram. I had high hopes for it, but ended up leaving incredibly disappointed. It was so overly busy that we would need to wait for over an hour for each individual exhibition and people were so pushy and shovey that I couldn’t actually enjoy the art that I was able to see.
We ended up leaving after less than an hour, and made our way to the smaller teamLAB Planets, a similar concept but far less hyped online – this ended up being a fantastic decision – although my outfit choice wasn’t ideal for it!
Planets is a sensory experience that requires people to have bare feet to truly enjoy. On this day I had been wearing a mini skirt with stockings, and thus, had to remove my stockings.
I thought it would be fine, but each room felt like another installment in a saga called ‘I picked the wrong day to wear a skirt!’
The first room was this one filled with exceptionally squishy beanbags. They were incredibly tricky to navigate without falling over and on any other day, I would’ve just ended up crawling across.
However, this was not an option for me given my choice in garb, which led to a long and comical journey for me, which involved falling over multiple times (and probably flashing them in the process).
The next room had mirrors for walls, the roof and you betcha, the floor! It was also filled with enormous squishy balls that we spent ages chasing each other around in whilst I tried to keep my legs as closed as possible – damn those mirrors!
The next room was my favourite, it was once again home to a mirrored floor (curse my skirt!) but was also filled with thousands and thousands of lights that were constantly morphing and changing. It was truly an immersive experience and we stayed in this room for at least an hour.
There were a bunch of other rooms, but the next one was also a highlight! You had to wade your way through knee deep water, and as you walked, ‘fish’ would be swimming all around you. If you managed to tap these fish with your feet, they would burst into flowers. It was absolutely incredible!
That evening we devoured ramen for at least the fifth time. It would be our last night in Tokyo before we headed out to get a traditional onsen town experience.
Stay tuned for more Japan adventures!
Tokyo AirBnB: We stayed in a small but lovely AirBnB in in Shibuya, click here to book
Yunessun Spa: This spa and onsen is super kitsch but a heckuva lot of fun
teamLAB Planets: So superior to Borderless, make sure to check Planets out when you’re in Tokyo for an epic and immersive experience!
Camera: Images captured with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 in conjunction with M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8, M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 and M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/2.8 lenses
Remember: For the love of god, don’t wear a skirt when you visit Planets!
7 thoughts on “Missed Trains, Quirky Onsens, Endless Ramen & Optical Illusions in Tokyo”
I’m amazed you ever managed to get to Yunessun!
You and me both! It was truly a comedy of errors!
Sounds like a very hectic schedule! Ashamed to say that I don’t know what Ramen are (noodles?!) or an onsen?
I want to try the fun rooms you describe! ☺️
Oof, what a crazy adventure! But ultimately it looks like you had a wonderful time. Great story!
Sounds like great time.
I loved Teamlab Planets!!! Such an amazing experience. I also had a good time at Borderless, but I went on a weekday during the pandemic whilst I was living in Tokyo so I luckily avoided the crowds on that one.