Knowing this will give you peace of mind even if it’s your first time! Etiquette Regarding Japanese Public Bathhouses
If you come to Japan, would you want to try a public bathhouse called sento rather than onsen? If you're worried about going for the first time, here is some information about etiquette and manners expected of visitors to a sento. Please try visiting one!
What is a sento?
Japan is a country that loves bathing, so there are different types of bathing spots. While onsen (hot springs) are famous and are all over the country, sento are the most familiar as they were a major part of common life. They're public bathhouses that were used on a daily basis, and they are set up with areas separated by gender with large bathtubs and a space to wash your body and hair.
Sento have been spaces for amusement and social life since ancient times, and many people enjoy visiting because they can soak with regular customers and friends while having a cheerful chat. Now super sento have become popular, and those are even more fun, with different types of baths and stone saunas as well as facilities in the building like restaurants and arcades.
Manners to watch out in Japanese Onsen >>
While the price of entering a sento depends on the prefecture, they're usually around 400 JPY for adults. The prices of super sento also depend on the scale and facilities, so they can run anywhere from 500 to 2,500 JPY for adults.
Some basic manners of the sento include "fully wash your body at the shower before entering the bath," "dry your body when you return to the locker room," "don't put your towel or hair in the bathtub," and more. Since the sento is a public area, please use it so that everyone can enjoy it enjoyable. <
In the Bath
You cannot save seats
In places where there are few showers, you cannot leave your items there. If there are shelves in the bathing room, then you can put your items like soap there instead.
Take consideration for those around you
When you finish using the shower or wash basin and head to the baths, please be careful to not splash people around you. Avoid blowing your nose into your hand or brushing your teeth. It's against the rules to wear clothing or underwear into the bath.
Return what you used to their places
After you use a wash basin or a bath, quickly rinse it with water and return it to its place. Don't leave trash or any lost hair behind. Please leave the area you used clean so the person after you can use it properly.
Other things to watch out for
While there are sento that offer soap, shampoo, conditioner, towels, etc., usually it's expected that you bring your own. While there may be places where regulars leave their things, make sure not to use them without permission. If you forget to bring something with you, you can usually buy a replacement at the front desk.
At the Sauna
Wipe yourself down with a towel before entering
Going into the sauna with your hair or body dripping is against the rules. You'll wet the mats on the floor and benches, so dry yourself with a damp towel before entering.
Always wash away your sweat
It's recommended that you wash with cold water to close your open pores after you sweat a lot. After you exit the sauna but before you enter the bath, it's expected that you rinse yourself off whether at the shower or with a bucket.
In the Stone Sauna
Don't speak too loudly
Sound reverberates easily inside the stone sauna, so even a soft voice may bother the people around you. Please try to keep your conversation to the bare minimum so everyone can enjoy themselves.
Make sure not to go to sleep!
You might feel so good in the stone sauna you'll doze off, but please make sure not to go to sleep! Just like speaking, you may snore, grind your teeth, or sleep-talk and the sound will reverberate. You might also suffer from dehydration!
Using it through mutual compromise
The stone sauna is not a place that can be reserved, so it's against etiquette to save spots. If you leave the bathing area, make sure to take all your things with you. Don't forget to wipe off your sweat from the bedrock using your towel before you leave.
Other points to remember
Times to avoid using the sento
Do not get into the bath if your stomach is feeling poorly or if you're nauseated. It would be very bad if you were to dirty the water in the bathtub. Also, during menstruation, one's immune strength is lowered and it's easy to catch illnesses, so a sento is out of the question since many people use it. Do not use the sento if you've hurt yourself or are otherwise bleeding in order to avoid infection. It would be best for people who are unwell to avoid the sento since the heat may not be helpful for your condition. There are many sento that refuse service to people with tattoos.
Don't bring valuables
There are usually baskets or lockers available in the locker room where you can leave your things, but often they are not secured with keys. Be sure to only bring the amount of money needed to pay for entrance fee and a drink for after you finish bathing.
Don't overdo it!
If you're in the bath or sauna for too long, you may be inviting dehydration. Please enjoy bathing in moderation, and make sure to take breaks and drink liquids.
Do not disturb others
Sento isn't just about removing the dirt from your body, but it's also a place where you can heal your tiredness and relax. Even in the large baths, it's against the rules to speak in a loud voice. Please make sure to keep everything comfortable for others. Please casually cover yourself with a towel.
One of the best parts about traveling overseas is experiencing the local culture. Please enjoy experiencing Japan's sento culture while keeping proper etiquette.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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