Public bathhouses, don’t miss it!

By Yoshi, June 28, 2011

One of Japanese cultures I’m proud of is “public bathhouses”.
We call a public bath “Sento” (せんとう, 銭湯) or “Furoya” (ふろや, 風呂屋) in Japanese.

A long time ago, temples made bathes to cleanse Buddhists before praying in front of God statue. And later, temples offered bathes for people. It’s said that it was the beginning of “Public bath” in Japan. And it is said that public bathes today, paying fee for taking a bath there, started in “Edo” Period.
OK, Let’s try a public bathhouse!

1) Buy a ticket from ticket-vending machine / at entrance.
大人(otona, おとな)=adult, 中人(chu-nin, ちゅうにん)or 学生(gakusei, がくせい)=student
小人(sho-nin, しょうにん)or 子供(kodomo, こども)=child
Nowadays, at many public bathhouses, the fee is 450 yen for one adult.

2) Take off your shoes and put them into a shoe locker.
Please lock it and keep the key until you leave.


3) Give your ticket at front desk.
If you need something like a soap, shampoo etc. You can buy them there.

4) Ok, let’s go to changing rooms.
Ladies’ area and men’s are divided, you can see short split curtains called “Noren” (暖簾、のれん) of the entrance. Usually Green or blue “Noren” is for Man, Red or Pink one is for female. In Japanese, “男” is “Man”, “女” is ” lady”. I think these “kanji” are written on Norens, but if you are not sure, please ask staff or follow other customers.


5) Use a locker and take off all your clothes.
Usually we need to take off our all clothes at public bathes in Japan, don’t be shy ;)
And lock your locker and bring your stuffs like a soap, a towel to the bathroom.

6) At the bathroom of entrance, take a tub and a chair and bring them in front of a tap.
This yellow tubs are very famous for Japanese, we call them “Kerorin”, one drag company was trying to find a new way of advertising the company and started giving bathhouses these tubs free. Now they are not free, but still many bathhouses are using them :)


Notice: We have to take a shower and clean our bodies before we get into the bathtubs.
Finish washing?
7) OK, enjoy lounge in the tub with nice drawings.
At traditional pubic bathhouses, there are big drawings in bathrooms. One of famous drawings is “Mt.Fuji”.


Notice again: don’t wash your body in the bathtub. And we cannot put dip our towel into the bathtub, as well.
And traditional bathhouses have high-ceilinged bathroom and walls, only a few meters high, dividing the ladies’ bathing area and the men’s. When I was a children, I used to talk to dad in men’s area :)

And milk coffee, or strawberry milk after taking a bath, is awesome!

At last, this is the 50 years old cash register of this bathhouse. So cool, isn’t it?

I really want to say thanks to my friends, Takahashi kun and his wife, kotobuki chan. He is a third generation owner of a “Sento” in Turumi (つるみ, 鶴見), “Kanagawa” prefecture. Getting old, many “Sento” are closed or rebuild. But his “sento” is awesome, still has traditional style!

It’s said that persons who have tattoo, can not go to public bathhouses. Actually it is up to each public bathhouse. I guess it’s OK if you have fashion tattoo. (I mean you are not “Yakuza”, a Japanese Mafia)
Hope you enjoy this culture of taking a bath in a public bathhouse together!