One of the best ways to enjoy Japanese bathing culture is to try a sento (public bath). Here are 5 sento in Tokyo popular with locals. Please enjoy these individualistic baths.
Kohmeisen is a sento that's been in business for 45 years and is managed by three generations of the same family. It was reopened in March 2014 after a full renovation, so it's a very modern sento. When you pass through the entrance that's full of warmth thanks to the use of wood, you'll reach the white, pristine changing area. There are various baths available, including a highly-concentrated carbonic acid bath, man-made radium spring, a sauna, a cold-water bath, and even an open-air bath on the roof, something very rare for sento in Tokyo. Bathing while gazing up at the Tokyo sky is particularly special! The whole floor is surrounded by wood, so you'll feel as though you're at a hot spring inn. You can enjoy yourself leisurely. Every Friday the unisex baths switch, so you might be able to enjoy a different bath on your subsequent visits. There is an English guide on their homepage, so it's a sento that's great for foreign visitors.
1. Meguro: Kohmeisen
Take no Yu is a sento that has hot springs and has been in business for 102 years. It's called the "Azabu Kokubisui Onsen" ("Azabu black beauty water") because the water is dark brown like coffee. It's that color thanks to the amount of peat (partially decayed vegetation), mud from the sea bed, and volcanic ash in the groundwater. You might think that it's dirty, but it isn't muddy at all and the water is clear. Everything that gives the water its color is completely melted, so there's no precipitation and nothing will stick to you. It's said that when you get into this bath your skin becomes smooth, so they added the "beauty" part to the spring's name. They have two kinds of baths, a hot bath (43℃-44℃) and a cool bath (39℃-41℃). They have baths for people who aren't used to getting into very hot baths. If you pay a separate fee, you can also enjoy the sauna.
2. Minami-Azabu: Azabu Kokubisui Onsen Take no Yu
Shimizuyu is a 100 year old well-established sento near the major shopping areas of Harajuku and Omotesando. It's in a perfect location, only a two minute walk away from Omotesando Station's A4 exit. You can refresh yourself in this sento after shopping. The name Shimizuyu, written with the characters for "clean water," comes from the quality of the water that once welled up there. There are a variety of baths that you can enjoy, like a jet bath with 3 levels of strengths, a cold-water bath, a highly-concentrated carbonic acid bath, a silk bath filled with microbubbles and more, all of which were created with health and beauty in mind. If you choose the sauna course you can also enjoy the sauna. Even though it's been in business 100 years, the interior is very nice. They sell soft-serve ice cream and beer at the counter, so it might be good to enjoy that after your bath! Why not work on your health and beauty in this perfectly-located sento?
3. Minami-Aoyama: Shimizuyu
Tenjinyu is a sento with a modern interior made with a lot of wood and it'll make you forget you're even in Japan. This sento is made so that it feels new but it's easy to get used to, and there's both indoor and half-outdoor baths. The half-outdoor bath is filled with black-colored water. There are also a variety of jet baths, so it can be called an optimal place to heal your tired body. Also, this sento has been introduced on Japanese TV shows as a bath that you can expect health benefits from. It's very convenient that you can enjoy baths with health benefits right in the city without having to go into the mountains. Why not make some time in your schedule to stop by this sento? You're guaranteed to easily feel the effects of this sento.
4. Kita-Shinagawa: Kita-Shinagawa Onsen Tenjinyu
You can enjoy two types of natural hot springs at Shimizuyu for the sento entrance fee. It's rare for there to be two types of springs welling in the same area, but in this sento there's dark amber-colored water and gold water. The depth of the Kuroyu amber onsen is 200 meters and it wells up from a geological layer that was laid down 1 million-2 million years ago, while the gold water has a depth of 1,500 meters from the Kasuza Group layer that formed 5 million years ago. It seems like this was the first sento that had water welling from such deep geological layers. The gold bath is designated as a medical bath, very rare for a sento. There's also open-air baths, so you can fully enjoy both baths surrounded by fresh air. There are also deck chairs available so you can care for your heated body by relaxing under the starry sky listening to the wind whistle through the bamboo trees. This is definitely a sento recommended for people that want to easily enjoy hot springs while sightseeing in Japan.
5. Musashi-Koyama: Shimizuyu
You can easily enjoy sento in Tokyo for about 460 JPY for adults and 180 JPY for children. Why not enjoy this warm part of Japanese culture?
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.