Japan is a nation that loves to bathe. For Japanese people, there’s hardly a greater bliss than slowly soaking their bodies in hot water. While technology changes with the times, traditional Japanese bath culture is still very much alive in the present day.
When not in their own bathtub at home, people go to large public baths or Japanese bathhouses – and, as opposed to the Western world, these places are frequented without any clothes.
People bathe together completely naked. Traditional Japanese bath culture is rooted deeply in the nation’s history and has its own rules and norms.

What is the difference between Sento and Onsen?

Sento refers to a traditional Japanese public bathhouse, while onsen describes a bath that uses water from an actual hot spring with a temperature higher than 25 degrees Celsius. Furthermore, onsen water must have at least one out of 19 different types of components, such as lithium or hydrogen ions.
Both in onsen and sento, a variety of different baths can usually be enjoyed. Traditional Japanese inns often feature “inner baths” inside the room itself. In contrast, public baths with spacious tubs are particularly popular, along with open-air baths (called rotenburo) in various shapes and sizes.
Soaking your body in refreshing hot spring water while overlooking gorgeous natural scenery is an exceptionally relaxing experience. And it is an essential element of traditional Japanese bath culture.

6 Tattoo-Friendly Onsen Hot Springs and Sento Baths in Tokyo

Experiencing traditional Japanese bath culture at a Sento

Sento are places that are frequented by all kinds of locals and thus offer a unique glimpse into the local people’s culture and day to day life.
A chat with the older man right next to you in the water or some relaxation in the dressing room – little moments like these can be exciting experiences.
In the past, Japanese bathhouses featured a bath-attendant called the banto, who was on watch duty for both the female and male sides of the dressing area.
Nowadays, almost every public bath has abandoned this practice. Instead, a fee is paid upon entering the building, either via a reception or sometimes via a ticket obtained from a vending machine.

Sento vs. Super-Sento

Of course, public bathhouses come in all kinds of variations – among them are so-called “Super Sento” and “Health Land” facilities, which are often tied to hotels or restaurants and offer a whole variety of spa services.
It’s not uncommon to find massage parlors, beauty salons, spacious resting areas, and even manga and computers inside a super sento or health land. Naturally, the entrance fee is much higher than for a regul…

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