"Sento" Public Bath in Japan
A communal place to relax, communicate with others while soaking inside hot tubs. A kind of recreation for others.
Public Bath in Japan
Sento is a Japanese word for public bathhouse.
Sento existed about 400 years ago when residential buildings had no bathing facilities. Since then, bathing at sento has been very popular to ordinary people. In most cases, a sento is usually segregated by gender. Men and women often enjoy the bathhouse as a place to relax or a place to communicate with friends to exchange gossip, beauty tips and current events. Since at present many people have bathrooms at home, the public bathhouse is used more as an area for socialization rather than actual bathing for some people. Some sentos can also offer access to facilities that someone may not have at home, like sauna and steam room.
A sento is usually a simple building with a curtain at the entrance. The curtain is blue with a Japanese character 湯 or hiragana writing ゆ. As you enter, you will find shelves on which to leave your shoes or slippers. At typical sentos, a bath receptionist is usually at an elevated counter where there are segregated bathrooms for male and female. The receptionist is there all the time to collect the payment for the bath before you enter the main bath hall. There are also items available for sale like soap, towel, shampoo and etc. in case you don't have anything with you when you go there to bath. There is a changing hall where there are lockers or baskets to place your clothes after you undressed. There are sinks, mirror, hair dryers, electric fan, coin operated massage chair, and drink machines. In the main bath hall, there are large tubs of several types (cold, hot, herbal, electric). There are shower heads and faucets where you wash your body before soaking into the tubs.
Some sento, typically in hot spring resort towns, utilize natural hot spring water for their baths. In this case they are considered an onsen bath. Public baths that are not supplied by hot spring water, use heated tap water instead.
Where to find them
Public baths can be found throughout Japan and typically cost 240 to 2000 yen. Some, found in larger cities, are open 24 hours with special overnight rates, and can be used as alternative budget accommodation.
How to Bathe
1) Take off your clothes and place them in a basket or locker in the changing room.
2) Bring a small towel when you enter the bathing area, with which you can enhance your privacy while outside of the water. Once you enter the tub, keep the towel out of the water.
3) Before entering the tub, rinse your body first or take a shower using soap and water from the faucet or showerhead.
4) Enter the tub and soak for a while. The water is very hot with a temperature from 40 to 44 degrees. Enter the tub carefully and slowly to make your body get used to the temperature of the hot water.
5) After soaking for a while, get out of the tub and wash your body with soap and water at the faucet while sitting on a stool. You can also shampoo your hair or shave. Be careful not to let soap or shampoo gets into the bath water.
6) Re-enter the tub if you want to soak some more and wash your body again when you get out of the tub. If the water in the tub comes from hot spring, do not wash anymore to keep the effect of the mineral from hot spring water.
7) Tidy up the space you occupied before leaving. When you get out from the door to the changing room, be sure to close the door to keep the warmth inside the bath area.