It takes visitors to Japan courage to enter a Japanese hot spring (onsen) at first, and I was no exception. With the help of friends, I got to know the routine and to love the experience. Now that I have a child, a destination close to home is a priority. New Sunpia in Kanuma fits the bill, a hot spring resort, an easy 15 km drive away from our home in Utsunomiya, Tochigi, and an outstanding destination for kids - it has the best playground on site that I know of.
Despite the playground, New Sunpia seems to be an old folks hangout (barrier free!) You can rent a wheelchair there, if need be. The facilities show their age but the prices are reasonable: the onsen costs Y500 for adults, Y300 for kids 4 and older. Other facilities include summer waterslide and outdoor pool, gym, cafeteria, hotel, tennis courts, and souvenir and snacks shops. As for the onsen, the hinoki (cypress) wood tub and outdoor tub are popular. We always visit for a couple of hours to enjoy the playground and then to bathe.
I found a tennis camp advertised in English online for New Sunpia: hotel, dinner with all you can drink alcohol, tennis court fee, party charge, pick up bus inclusive Y15,000 (must be a group rate). If the brochures and postcards are for real, meals at this resort are sumptuous (Japanese food).
I like the massage beds at the reception counter. At least twice we found an attendant there offering a free massage in a curtained off area! If you are not so lucky, there are also coin-operated massage chairs. Another time, we peeked into the gym near the entrance and were able to watch kendo practice.
Upstairs, the hotel lobby offers an awesome garden and forest view of lush greenery, and is nice place to relax, read a book or chat with a friend.
New Sunpia is a only 5 minutes drive from JR Kanuma Station. Ohya is quite closeby, as is golf, paragliding and horseback riding opportunities. Nikko takes about an hour by car from this location.