I had an interesting lesson during my Japanese Tuition tonight. The tutor talked about her experiences in using a Sentō, otherwise known as a Japanese Public Bath. As a foreigner, she was not aware of the customs of using a Sentō(銭湯). Her little apartment did not have an ensuite so she had to use a Sentō. Funnily enough on New Years Eve, she pays the Sentō a visit. To use a Sentō, you pay the attendent, then you find a locker to place your clothes that you’re going to take off, then you’re supposed to strip down to the bare, clean yourself before dipping in the warm waters. But when she entered the Sentō, she completely shocked at ability of the Japanese to walk naked freely. I’m sure alot of you 外人(gaijin-foreighter)  wouldn’t feel comfortable in this 滅茶苦茶 (mess-I think it’s a mess!). At first she wasn’t game enough to strip down to nothing, so she kept procrastinating, went to the toilet three times, then decided not to go into the bath. She instead went home, boiled water from the tap and washed herself at her own place.  What was even worse was that it was New Years Eve, so the women in there were congratulating eacha other on another year, bowing to each other, which would seem visually wrong! She had an amazing 5days without  properly cleaning, so she had said to herself, ‘You must wash!’洗わないといけない!With determination, she paid and entered the Sentō. I can’t believe she did this but she even asked a women ‘How can you strip down like this,’ to receive a weird look from her. So my tutor then stripped down to her underwear, entered the bath area, to immediately gains glares of disgust at her. You’re not supposed to wear anything in the bath. I thought this was the most funny part, she stripped down in front of them all. It was very satsifying but very embarrassing for her. After that, she was fine to do it for the rest of her visits.

A little bit I learnt about Sentō.

Just a few pictures of Sentō coming up in google images. This first one seems to be too luxurious.

This is one of the rooms, you might know, you must wash off before dipping into the bath. I guess I wouldn’t have the guts to go around naked, washing myself around another 20 naked men. It’s just so wrong.

General Sentō Layout

Ok,Sentō have a Male and Female Side. The white box at the bottom, is the Sentō attendant, who will take your money, allowing you to enter and use the facilities. The one my tutor went to a Sentō where this attendent was sitting on a very high ledge, able to see both baths. Just reading the wikipedia article, interesting to see court cases charging these attendants for, what I’m guess ‘perving’ on their patrons. I guess if you wanted to work as one of these attendants, it could be a great job, but you’d have to sit through looking at ugly, wrinkly bodies. Eww.

Anyway, entering any place, you take off your shoes, and put on slippers. After that, find a locker to place your belongings, strip down, wash down, and dip in the hot baths. Our tutor told us about the different levels of heating in the bath. There are 3 sections, numbered 1-3. The first section is ‘warm’ which supposedly is ‘warmer’ than what we normally want. Sometimes it’s hard to go straight in at that temperature, so there’s a cold water tap to assist entering. There’s then section 2, which is heated at a higher temperature, same for 3 but even more. My tutor was saying that she mainly stayed in 1, because even  in 2, she felt dizzy. These baths are great for a cold winter’s night. Just relax in the bath. At her time, it was around 250yen but now, it’s around 450yen. Big price jump, but there’s probably better facilities. Just paying, gives you access to all things, stay as long as you like, just get out when it closes of course.

It was enjoyable listening about my tutor’s Sentō experiences. She was encouraging us to try it when we’re in Japan. I think now I’m up to the challenge. There’s certainly nothing wrong if everyone’s doing the same. Would you try a Sentō? If you have, how was the experience?