Bathing culture is deeply ingrained in the Japanese society. Japanese people love soaking in hot baths, both at home and in public hot spring resorts, known as onsen. You’ve surely heard about onsen already – all together with the high prices, rules and etiquette that might seem weird for us Westerners (entering the public bath stark naked, no people with tattoos allowed, and more.) If you’re still wary about trying an onsen, you might want to look into sento bathhouses instead. Sento is very similar to an onsen, but most of them use regular heated water instead of real hot spring water and are closer to a Western-style bathhouse than a Japanese onsen. Let’s take a look at some sento in Tokyo you can visit during your trip:
1. Saito Yu
Probably one of the most popular among tourists sento in Tokyo, Saito Yu is located in Taito, near the Nishi Nippori Station. They charge a flat fee of ¥460 for adults, ¥180 for elementary school kids, and ¥80 for pre-schoolers. They also offer towels for rent in case you didn’t bring your own to Japan, and essential amenities like
makeup remover and lotion to use before getting in the bath. What’s more, they even sell draft beer, so that you can crack open a cold one (not really, it comes in a mug) after your hot bath. The best part about this sento is that they allow people with tattoos, which makes it very popular with Westerners.
Name: Saito Yu
Address: 6 Chome-59-2 Higashinippori, Arakawa, Tokyo 116-0014, Japan
Business hour: Mon-Sun 14:00-23:30, Fridays closed
Phone number: +81 3-3801-4022
Official website: http://saito-yu.com/
2. Tsuru no Yu
Another sento located in the Taito area of Tokyo is Tsuru no Yu. However, this one is closer to Asakusa station, so you can pop in while visiting the area. They offer different kinds of traditional Japanese baths – starting with herbal and water jet baths and rounding up with Infrared Radon baths and Western-style dry saunas. The bathhouse also has a laundromat that you can use if you need to freshen up your clothes as well. Lastly, Tsuru no Yu also accepts people with tattoos, so you won’t have to worry about not being able to enter, even if you’re inked from head to toe.
Name: Tsuru no Yu
Address: Asakusa 5-48-4, Tokyo 176-0022, Japan
Business hour: Mon-Sun 10:00-23:00, Thursdays closed
Phone number: +81 3-3872-7753
Official website: http://taito1010.com/component/mtree/sento-list/tsuru_asakusa.html?Itemid=112
3. Azuma Yokusen
Azuma Yokusen is perfect for those who want to experience a bit of the history of Japanese onsen as well, besides dipping into a hot bath. The place was opened in 1970, and is a splendid example of Taisho era design. While most sento have a representation of Mt Fuji inside the bathhouse, this one features and intricate mosaic depicting mermaids. If you’re only in for the baths, you’ll be able to enjoy traditional Japanese cold, warm and hot tubs, Western-style dry sauna, and aromatic baths.
Name: Azuma Yokusen
Address: 2-34-2 Chuo, Edogawa-ku, Tokyo
Business hour: Mon-Sun 14:00-22:00, closed Wednesdays
Phone number: +81 3-3654-0034
4. Arai Yu
Arai Yu is located close to Tokyo Sky Tree and Asakusa Station. This is one of the best places to go to for the quintessential Japanese bathhouse experience. They offer several different types of baths, including hot and warm tubs, aromatic baths, and massage baths. The men’s bath also has access to a smaldoesden terrace, where you can relax and enjoy the view of a Japanese garden. The sento doesn not specify what their policy is regarding people with tattoos, but you might be able to talk to them about that, especially if your tattoo is small or in a more hidden area.
Name: Arai Yu
Address: Japan, Sumida ku Honjo 2-8-7, Tokyo
Business hour: Mon-Sun 15:30-00:00, Closed on the 6th, 16th, and 26th of the month
5. Minowa Yu
Minowa Yu is the perfect destination for those who don’t have time to go too far off the beaten path to try out a sento. This bathhouse is located in the very heart of Shinjuku, and offers a wide variety of baths to choose from. This includes massage tubs, herbal baths, mist saunas, and regular hot tubs that anyone can enjoy. The design of the bathhouse is also pretty spectacular – it sports Roman-style arcades and mosaic, which is a fairly interesting choice for a Japanese sento.
Name: Minowa Yu
Address: Shinjuku-ku, Kamiochiai 3-31-2, Tokyo, Japan
Business hour: Mon-Sun 15:30-01:00
Phone number: +81 3-3368-2661
The Japanese bath culture is certainly different from anything we’re used to in the West. And if you’re still not ready to commit and go for a real Japanese onsen, try one of these sento spas we recommend. They’re sure to offer you a quick dip (pun intended) into the traditional bathing culture but in a more Western bathhouse ambiance. And they’re also really cheap – most charge a flat fee of just ¥460.
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