A Foreigners GUIDE to Sauna & Sentos


A Japanese bathtub home (or sentō) has been a necessary a part of Japanese culture for over a thousand years. Each day, folks from everywhere in the nation head to the sentō to take pleasure in their bathtub.

Whereas that is widespread in Japan, a sentō isn’t well-known to westerners. With increasingly foreigners touring to Japan, it solely is smart to get the phrase out about these implausible Japanese bathhouses. The one drawback is that many guests are nervous about visiting a sento since it’s required to be nude round strangers.

The fact is it isn’t that unhealthy, and when you let your nerves and timidity down, you’ll see {that a} Japanese bathtub home is a cultural expertise. Right here’s every little thing you’ll want to learn about visiting a Japanese sento.

A Information to Japanese Tub Homes and Sentos

1. What’s a Japanese Sento?

Sento Bath Tutrle Symbol
Exterior Mannen-Yu with their pin. The image of their sento is the turtle!

The brief reply is a sento is a Japanese public bathhouse normally separated by intercourse and open to all.

2. Why Do Individuals Go to Japanese Sentos?

Inside Japanese Sento Hasunuma Onsen
Hasunuma Onsen

Again within the day, most Japanese didn’t have baths of their dwelling, so that they went to public bathhouses to wash a number of instances every week. These sentos had been basically in each neighborhood so the native residents may bathe and socialize.

In fact, now with trendy instances, most individuals have baths of their home however nonetheless benefit from the sento bathing expertise. Each sentos and onsens are crucial to Japanese tradition. Nonetheless, sadly as a result of accessibility of baths, trendy tradition, and rising prices, sentos round Tokyo and all of Japan are closing.

3. What’s the Distinction Between a Japanese Sento and an Onsen?

For those who’ve researched Japan, you’ve doubtless heard of a Japanese onsen. They’re well-known world wide and is usually a spotlight of any journey to Japan.

There’s actually not a large distinction between a sento and an onsen, however there’s a distinction. Sentos are public Japanese bathtub homes with artificially heated water. Sentos are available in many sizes and styles; chances are you’ll discover jacuzzies, saunas, and chilly water baths, relying on the place you go.

An onsen is a pure sizzling spring fashioned underground. The water is heated by geothermal vitality. So if you end up in an out of doors bathtub, you’re most certainly at an onsen.

It’s essential to notice the distinction so that you don’t arrive at a sento anticipating a pure geothermal sizzling spring from the earth.

4. What Do you Must Deliver to Get pleasure from Japanese Sentos?

Soap Inside Japanese Sento

Not a lot! You’ll be bare! Nonetheless, you want a drying towel to your physique, and many individuals additionally convey a small wash towel. These usually are not supplied freed from cost on the sento however are sometimes out there if you happen to overlook yours for a small price.

In fact, when you’ve got plans after your sento expertise, you’ll wish to convey the belongings you want after you sometimes get completed bathing. Underwear, garments, make-up… stuff like that!

5. What Facilities are Out there on the Sento?

Virtually all sentos can have a hairdryer within the altering rooms, and a few might have additional objects like Q-tips and hair spray. Contained in the precise bathhouse, you’ll be able to look forward to finding physique wash and shampoo, and many who I visited even have conditioner.

If you’re like me and all the time want conditioner and fash wash whenever you bathe, convey this stuff with you. Many sentos have issues like razors and deodorant out there for buy as properly.

6. Can I Put on my Footwear or Slippers Contained in the Sento?

Lockers in Sento
Put your footwear within the locker.

It’s important to take off your outside footwear on the entrance of the sento. There might be a locker supplied to your footwear. Eradicating your footwear at properties and bathhouses in Japan is widespread follow.

It’s also not widespread to put on slippers contained in the sento or altering rooms. Rest room slippers might be supplied on the entrance of the bathroom room.

7. How A lot Do Japanese Sentos Value?

Sento Front Desk
Hasunuma Onsen

There are 530 sentos in Tokyo alone. Virtually all of them are members of the Tokyo Sento Association and cost ¥470 for admission. Some sentos might have a Japanese sauna, and people sometimes price additional. If you need the rest additional, like a towel or drink, be certain that to convey some change. As with most of Japan, be certain that to convey money to pay. Most sentos won’t be able to just accept bank card.

Word* Some sentos you’ll pay instantly on the conventional attendant’s sales space, whereas some have a ticket merchandising machine the place you’ll buy the ticket after which hand it to the attendant.

8. Can You Put on a Bathing Swimsuit within the Japanese Sento?

Inside Sento
Towel worn just for images functions

No. Bathing fits usually are not allowed in sentos. It’s customary to be absolutely bare contained in the bathhouse. Foreigners ought to adjust to this Japanese custom. Belief me, nobody cares that you’re bare or might be “trying” at you. This has been a cultural norm for tons of of years, and the Japanese are used to bathing bare, amongst others. Don’t fear, in a Japanese sento, everyone seems to be equal – each social standing, form, dimension, and age!

For those who “strive” to put on a showering go well with within the sento, I promise you that you’ll really feel extra awkward than being bare. It’s unlikely {that a} Japanese particular person will say something to you, however they won’t be happy on the within.

9. Are Japanese Sentos Separated by Intercourse?

Separate Gender Entrances For Sento

Each sentos and onsens are separated by intercourse nearly instantly after coming into the institution. A blue curtain sometimes represents males’s bathtub entrances, and the ladies’s entrances are marked with a crimson curtain. For those who get confused, ask the entrance desk attendant, and they’ll level you in the best course.

10. Are Tattoos Allowed on the Sento?

Sentos in Tokyo
Exterior Kairyo-Yu

Tattoos usually are not widespread in Japan, and it was as soon as thought that if you happen to had a tattoo, you had been a member of the infamous Yakuza. Subsequently, sentos and onsens banned tattoos from the bathhouse.

Nonetheless, instances are altering, and most sentos house owners are aiming to be extra accepting of tattoos. Now round 90% of the sentos in Tokyo gladly settle for these with tattoos into their premises to create a heat and welcoming setting for everybody.

If tattoos usually are not allowed, you’ll know on the entrance as there might be indicators.

11. Do I Need to Wash First?

Sure. It’s important to scrub your physique first earlier than entering into the Japanese bathtub home. In each sento, you will notice rows of quite a few bathe heads with stools for laundry. Close to the showerhead, you’ll doubtless discover cleaning soap and shampoo. It’s essential to scrub your physique off right here earlier than coming into the bathtub.

It could appear intimidating, but it surely’s not laborious! Simply sit (don’t stand) on the stool and activate the showerhead and start washing. Keep in mind that you must flip the water off when not utilizing the bathe head to keep away from losing it.

It’s not essential to scrub your hair if you happen to don’t wish to. Simply ensure that when you’ve got lengthy hair that it’s not touching the bathwater. Deliver hair ties so that you simply pull it up right into a bun when enjoyable.

12. What’s the Small Towel For?

Towel in Sento

When having fun with sento, you’ll discover that most individuals can have a small towel with them. That is for laundry or no matter you need it for. Don’t put the towel within the water of the bathtub. When having fun with the bathtub, the towel must be positioned on high of your head.

13. Can I Stroll Round with a Towel?

Sento in Japan
Towel worn for images functions.

It’s completely acceptable to stroll across the altering room with a towel; when you enter the bathtub, it’s fairly regular to be bare from right here on out. Keep in mind to position your towel someplace dry and away from the bathwater when within the bathtub, so you may have it whenever you get out.

14. When Are Japanese Sentos Sometimes Open?

Inari-Yu Japanese Sento

Each sento is totally different, however most open at 3 pm and keep open till 11 or 12.

15. Can I Deliver my Telephone or Digicam into the Sento?

No Camera Sign in Sento

Telephones and cameras usually are not permitted in a Japanese sento or onsen – individuals are nude and wish their privateness. Word that I’ve pictures of myself within the sento on this submit, however I used to be within the sento earlier than opening hours and had particular permission from the house owners to take pictures for the aim of this text.

16. How Can I discover Sentos Round Tokyo and the Remainder of Japan?


Typing in “sento” to Google maps will yield many outcomes for sentos round Tokyo or anyplace else that you’re in Japan. You’ll know that you simply reached the sento whenever you discover the Noren hanging outdoors the doorway.

It is a curtain that’s hung on the entrance of buildings in Japan when they’re open. The sento image is an oval with three curved traces rising out of it (for warmth). See the photograph above!

17. Are you able to Speak in a Sento?

Sento Water

Sentos are a spot for dialog and socializing (though not loud ones). Nonetheless, if you happen to aren’t with a good friend and also you don’t communicate Japanese, chances are high you’ll be conversing with nobody. However don’t be shocked if different individuals are having low-key conversations round you.

18. How Scorching is the Water?

Among the sento water can get significantly HOT. In a single Japanese bathtub I used to be in on the Kumano Kodo I couldn’t stand it for greater than 5 minutes and needed to exit. For those who begin to really feel lightheaded, it’s important to get out of the water and both go within the cooler water for a bit or name it a day.

19. Are Japanese Sentos Intimidating?

Your first sento or onsen expertise could also be just a little intimidating, however you’ll begin to chill out and really feel proper at dwelling after a couple of minutes. They’re meant to be enjoyable for guests, and after your nerves settle down about being bare in entrance of others, you’ll quickly fall proper into the swing of issues. Don’t fear if you happen to don’t do one thing completely the primary time, however in saying that, most sento customs are just about widespread sense.

The principle issues to recollect are no bathing fits, wash beforehand, and preserve your towel out of the bathtub.

20. How Does a Typical Sento Expertise Go?

Exterior Mannen-Yu

A typical sento expertise will go one thing like this:

  • Step 1: Enter the sento and take away your footwear. There might be lockers to position your footwear. Some sentos even have umbrella holders, go away the umbrella right here.
  • Step 2: Pay for the sento both with the attendant or on the merchandising machine
  • Step 3: Enter both the mens or girls’s altering rooms. Undress fully and prepare for sento! Put your belongings within the supplied lockers.
  • Step 4: Enter the bathhouse together with your bathing objects. End up a bathe spot with a stool.
  • Step 5: Wash your self earlier than coming into the tub. In case you have lengthy hair you’ll be able to wash it or tie it up so it’s not within the bathwater.
  • Step 6: Benefit from the sento! Some sentos can have a number of baths ranging in temperature. You might also discover that there’s a Japanese sauna or outside bathtub as properly.
  • Step 7: If you find yourself completed dry your physique off and prepare to go away the sento.
  • Step 8: It’s typical to take pleasure in a glass of chilly milk, chilly espresso, beer, or different refreshments after sento. Yow will discover these for buy outdoors the altering rooms the place you entered.
Espresso milk after the sento – excellent!

21. Why Ought to You go to Sento as a Foreigner?

Sento Mascot
Exterior Hasunuma with the Sento Mascot, Yuppokun

A part of the enjoyable about touring in Japan is immersing your self in a very new and totally different tradition. Japanese bathtub homes (sentos AND onsens) are each unique to Japan, so to travel to Japan and never go to one could be a mistake.

I’ve been to over ten totally different onsens and sentos, and when you recover from the concern of getting bare in entrance of strangers your first time, every one after that may be a enjoyable expertise.

Moreover, as talked about earlier than sento numbers are down, and sadly many are closing store. As vacationers, it’s essential to assist and provides again to the neighborhood you’re visiting, and going to sento does simply that. Each sento I’ve been to is comfortable to see foreigners stroll by way of their doorways and desirous to share their tradition!

Plus, don’t you wish to sit and ponder your enjoyable journey day round Japan in a calming setting?

22. What Sentos Must you Go to Whereas in Tokyo?

I visited 4 totally different sentos whereas in Toko, and every one was distinctive in its personal means.


The house owners, husband and spouse Nobuyoshi Takeda and Satsuki Takeda

This sento is tucked away at the back of Koreatown down a quiet avenue. Like most sentos in Tokyo, Mannen-Yu is household run by Nobuyoshi-san and Satsuki-san. The within is trendy and glowing clear. The house owners instructed me the sento has simply been refurbished. There’s a sizzling bathtub, tepid bathtub, and chilly bathtub on each the boys’s and girls’s sides.

Hasunuma Onsen

House owners, husband and spouse Kazuyuki Kondo and Yoshi Kondo

Hasunuma Onsen is attractive and brings you again to a special period in Japan. That is one other third technology owned household sento and onsen. Right here you could find a carbonated spring, chilly bathtub, sauna, and sizzling spring bathtub (watch out – it’s actually sizzling)! This onsen is on the best way to Haneda Airport, so it’s a superb place to cease earlier than or after your flight.


The house owners, husband and spouse staff Nobuaki Yamato and Keiko Yamato

Kairyo-Yu is an especially trendy sento that matches the fashion of close by Shibuya station. Upon coming into this sento you’re feeling as if you’ve stepped into one other world. The paintings on the partitions depicts scenes from Shibuya and is enjoyable to take a look at as you take pleasure in your bathtub. There’s additionally a chilly bathtub and sauna right here.


Proprietor, Shunji Tsuchimoto

This sento is likely one of the oldest ones in Tokyo. Inbuilt 1930, Inari-Yu is a timeless Japanese bathtub the place you’ll be able to soak within the heat waters whereas admiring a portray of Mt. Fuji on the wall.

This sento has retained the attraction and character of its early 1900s look, however the rest room has been fully renovated. That is the one sento I visited that also has wood buckets and a Japanese-style backyard with carp.

Above All Get pleasure from Your Japanese Sento Expertise!

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