How to enjoy the SENTO
This article is for visitors to Japan or People who wish visit to Japan in the future, to provide a basic guide on how you could enjoy SENTO or Japanese style ONSEN public bath.
Don’t be afraid, Let’s try.
1.Take off your shoes
First, please take off your shoes and put them in a shoe box. You are often asked to remove your shoes while you are in Japan, and you may find it troublesome, but you also take off your shoes when you are taking showers in your home country, don’t you? If your shoes are too big, it may not fit in the box.
If you are not familiar with Kanji, the character above the illustration says “For male”, and the one under the illustration means “For female”. Preschooler are allowed to go into either side depending on the adult accompanying them.
If you think you belong neither male or female…it is very sensitive issue…so please do not refer this article.
3.Pay in advance
In most of Sento, you are asked for pay the entrance fee first.
Price classifications are
- OTONA means above 18 years old of age.
- CHUNIN between 12 and 17
- SHONIN 11 and under
Nobody will ask you to show your ID but please pay honestly.
4. Dressing room
There is a dressing room just after the entrance, people who is non-Japanese may feel uncomfortable taking your clothes off in front of others.
The staff at the counter is the real Zen Master who does not care about naked opposite sex.
Make sure that you have put all your belongings including undressed clothes and change of clothes into the locker.
As the means to keep Yakuza off, most SENTO rejects a person with tattoo no matter how small it is. If you have a tattoo, why not hiding it completely with a medical-tape. It’s worth trying.
No photos in the dressing room and bath. It is understandable that you want to share your unique experiences with people watches SNS.
Please be patient, But there may be on opportunity if no one is inside the bath, and if the Zen Master is in a good mood, You may be allowed to take one picture of inside.
Be completely naked, and just holding a towel. This is the traditional way of enjoying bath. If your towel is too small to hide your important part…well, don’t care about it.
Let’s go to the next.
8.Washing your body
There is a giant size bathtub and it looks so good. OK, dive into the bath! yeah!
No,no, please don’t do that. Before doing anything, you are asked to wash your body. The bath is for everyone to enjoy.
If the bath doesn’t have a shower, sit down on a stool, fill the basin with hot water and wash your head and body. Be careful not to splash hot water around you.
Japan is quite a safe place to travel. There aren’t many thieves around. However security in a SENTO is not that tight. Please do not bring in any valuable items with you. While you are in the bath room you could leave your own shampoo and soap at the washing area.
10.In the tub
Do not soak your towel in the bathtub. Many people feel it unclean.
The water temperature is set at around 42 to 45 degree C. If that is too hot to you, find a faucet and lower the temperature by adding some cold water.
11. Special Day
You can enjoy a bath with iris leaves in May, and a hot citron bath in December at many SENTOs.
Consider yourself a lucky person if you find citrus fruit or leaves with strong aroma floating on the bath water.
You are experiencing a special days.
According to folklore, when you take a bath with the plants, you are harder to catch cold.
It’s becoming rare, but some SENTO has on “Electric” bath. What’s going to happen if you try it?
Oops can’t say it here.
You also have saunas in your county right?
So needless to say, false courage is dangerous and it could endanger your own life.
Do not care about other brave person.
On the inmost wall, there is a big painting of the landscape in many SENTOs. The work is done by a specialist in this field. The number of the specialist is in rapid decline as the numbers of SENTO reduces.
As you take the bath, look at the painting and think of the artist.
Origin is unknown, but it is considered “cool” to drink milk-coffee after taking bath in Japan. If you are not keen on milk-coffee, fruit-milk, lemon-milk and even pure milk are available.
Put one hand on your hip and drink it one gulp is considered smart, or “IKI” in Japanese.
Many apologies for giving you pictures of male’s birthday suits only. Woman could also enjoy SENTO, and the manners are the same.
(Illustration by Hiromi Ishikawa)