A group of ladies in blazing orange smock dresses gathered around a tower of intricately wrapped sweets chatting about which ones to take home as souvenirs. The men sat at the coffee shop nearby, sporting royal blue floral shirts and rubber yellow slip on shoes. A cylindrical aquarium containing bright blue jellyfish stood in the middle of the lobby and the soundtrack to a luau played gently in the background. I felt like I had possibly stepped into another (completely wacky) dimension but no, I was just visiting Fukushima’s number one tourist spot – Spa Resort Hawaiians.
As if staying at Hawaiian themed spa resort in Japan is not quirky enough, Spa Resort Hawaiians ups the wacky ante by implementing a ‘kawaii’ (Japanese for cute) dress code. Although not mandatory (I saw business men attending a conference in suits), guests are provided with muumuus (the orange smock dresses) for ladies and Hawaiian shirts for the men, and from what I saw most of the resort’s patrons are only too happy to dress for the occasion. As this is Japan there is also a kimono jacket to wear if you get cold and indoor slippers to wear around the resort (not to be confused with the toilet slippers that are provided just for using in your bathroom).
The rooms, much like the dress code, are a blend of east meets west. We stayed in an older wing (navigating between the spa and the guest rooms is tricky at first but staff are on hand to guide you) and my room was a mix of tatami flooring, low seating and twin beds. (It’s not unusual for hotels in Japan to have twin beds instead of doubles.)
The spa is also a sprawling complex with east and west wings that take a little while to get your head around. The main attraction is the water park – a giant tropical dome with a hot spring pool, flumes and a lazy river that kids adore. For the adults there are a number of watery attractions in the west wing, including Spring Park, a European style hot spring bathhouse, and Spa Garden Pareo, which has rooftop hot tubs that utilise the natural spring water. The great thing about this spa resort for prudish westerners like myself is that some of the pools allow you to bathe in the hot spring waters while wearing your swimmers. There’s also some mixed sex (clothed) bathhouses so if you come with your other half you don’t have to separate from each other for the whole of your visit.
To experience my favourite part of the resort though you will need to get your kit off. The Edo Jowa bathhouse is a traditional Japanese style outdoor onsen, which was at one point the largest in the country. Under wooden beans and misty waters men and women bathe naked in separate quarters. Open until late, it’s indescribably magical to soak in the steaming 40 degree waters whilst watching the stars above you.
The resort is big on entertainment too. Inside the water park each evening guests gather to watch a Polynesian performance involving fire, knives and sweetly singing Hula Girls. (Definitely the most popular people at Hawaiians – everyone wanted a selfie with them at the end of the performance!). It’s an impressive show involving a live band, special effects and some audience participation – watching grown men move their hips like a hula girl was unexpected! For more sedate entertainment there is also a shadow puppet show held in the Edo Jowa onsen around 10pm. I would have liked to have seen this but I had already reached my limit for soaking by then.
The food at Hawaiians is as generous and varied as the buffet at an American resort but with the added cuteness of Japanese style buffet trays that have 6 separate compartments. (I’m not sure if you’re meant to fill a whole one for dessert but I popped a few pieces of fruit in the holes for balance!) The cuisine is a mix of Japanese and Western with the Japanese options being the most appealing – think: crispy tempura, vegetable curries and fresh lobster. The drinks definitely fell on the Hawaiian side though, with rainbow coloured cocktails you could order at the touch of an iPad button.
Although this resort has a Hawaiian theme there is something so sweetly Japanese about the way it has been executed. If you’re looking for a unique way to try Japanese hot spring bathing, you couldn’t get any more kawaii than Spa Resort Hawaiians.