Hi, it’s Taka. How’s everything?
Yesterday, I had a strange dream.
A big gray circle thing appeared in front of me and covered my vision.
And then it pressed me to death!!
Just before dying, I saw 3 white cups with names on them.
They were disappearing but I wanted them to be there so I mentally forced to keep their existence somehow.
And then I could push the circle away and woke up.
What a strange dream it was. I still feel weird that I’m actually alive in this world.
It is said that dying in dream is a good sign, so I guess some nice things are waiting for me (well I want to think that way!).
Anyways, today’s about 銭湯/Sento!
銭湯/Sento is a communal bath house in Japan.
Customers pay for entrance and people of all kinds share the joy of bathing.
Sento is simply a place made for hot water bathing, and it is different from Onsen, which has numerous natural minerals or chemical composition.
The number of Sento grew in the post-war time as the population went up.
Back then, not many people have bath at home, so people would go to public baths.
After 1970, most new houses had a bath and shower unit, so the popularity of Onsen declined.
There were over 17,000 Sentos in Japan in 60s, but we only have about 2,600 now.
It is a fading tradition ,but you can still enjoy the Sento culture throughout Japan.
Here is a beginner’s guide to Sento, including some manners that you need to follow.
Before going to a Sento…
Some Sentos do not have towels for rent, so bring a towel for drying.
You also need to take your soap and shampoo with you.
Some places won’t let you in if you are tattooed ,but you may be allowed to get in if tattoos are not too obvious.
(The reason for the ban was to keep Yakuza/violence groups away from a public area)
Most Sentos have traditional Japanese house/temple looking building with 暖簾/Noren curtain at the entrance.
Which is usually blue and has the Kanji 湯/ゆ, meaning hot water, or written 男 for men and 女 for women.(Men’s area usually has a blue Noren, and red/pink for Women’s area)
The price for entrance is around 400 per a person (varies slightly depending on the area) and it is fixed by Tokyo Sento Association.
You pay at the front desk and go inside of the dressing room.
脱衣所/Datsui Jo, Dressing room
It is a place to take off your clothes.
At a traditional style Sento, there is a tall barrier separating the sexes within one large room, and between the entrances is 番台/Bandai, which is a place where the attendant sits (this style is not common these days).
Dressing room is about 10 m by 10 m in size, and sometimes partly covered with tatami sheets.
There are lockers for the clothes.
Some places have metal or wooden keys for the lockers, while some don’t have them but just some baskets to keep your stuff.
The ceiling is usually 3 to 4 m high and there are coin-operated massage chairs and a scale to measure weight.
The women’s side usually has some baby beds.
At most Sentos, Milk drinks are available.
Drinking Milk after taking a bath is kind of a tradition that many people like.
Before entering the bathing area, make sure that you bring a small towel to dry yourself when you come back after bathing.
風呂場/Furoba, Bathing area
Going through the sliding door, you can find a spot and wash yourself.
There are usually buckets called 桶/Oke in front of each faucet.
You can use it to wash yourself.
Baths are not for washing yourself in, so make sure you clean before getting in.
After washing, make sure that you return your Oke at the place where you found.
If you have long hair, you need to be careful not to get your hair in the water.
You should pull your hair back with a hair elastic or clip.
Also, you can not bring towels into the bathtub, so keep it outside of the bath.
When you return to the dressing room, make sure that you dry off so that you won’t get the floor wet.
It is a manner to keep Sento clean for other guests.
Here are the popular Sentos in Japan.
Once you experience the joy of bathing at a Sento, you will find it very convenient and relaxing!
Bathing at a Sento, you can not only warm your body up but also relax and keep your health.
Some Sentos are very big and have lounges where you can read manga, watch movies, and take a nap (this style is called “Super Sento”).
Visiting Sento will surely be a great experience.
See you next time!
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