For all of those unfamiliar with what a Sento actually is, we offer you a quick explanation. A Sento is a type of a communal bath which evolved from utilitarian purposes to all around great places to relax and enjoy a spacious sauna or jet baths, and even though their popularity was decreasing during the 20th century most Japanese people speculate that it is very much still an important way of being sociable with other people. As we know Japanese people tend to be squeamish about rules, we suggest checking out some rules about how exactly you should handle yourself when visiting a Sento.
The very first thing you need to do when visiting a Sento is to find a Genkan which is sort of like a traditional Japanese booth where you need to take off your shoes and place them in a locker room then and this is very important try to pick the right door with as the wrong one might lead to the other gender’s bath which you are not comfortable with and this may cause discomfort from everyone currently participating in Sento, so try to memorize the kanji at the door entrance to avoid any unnecessary embarrassment.
Once you’re in the changing area, everything is pretty much the same, no matter the size of the bath you are in. The changing area will have a tatami floor and lockers on the walls to keep your clothes and valuables. Strip down to your birthday suit. The only thing you need in the bathing area is a small towel to wash with and use to cover your privates. Don’t bring any soaps, shampoos and other bathroom utensils you might want to use (toothbrush, razor, etc.). In larger public baths soap and shampoo are often provided.
Now once you know the basics it’s almost time for your Senso bath. Usually, an old lady will be in charge of handling payments inside smaller local baths, with larger baths a payment booth or a vendor is more likely be in charge of payment. So moving on to the changing room which is pretty much similar in all bathhouses, easily recognizable by a tatami floor which is a usual Japanese mat used for flooring. Now strip down stark naked and remember to cover your private parts with a small towel. No need for towels and other bathroom utensils, all will be provided once inside.
Inside the Bathing place
Inside the bathing space a sliding door will greet you accompanied by a small basin on the other side filled with hot water where you will need to wash yourself completely with a shampoo bottle you will be given, try not to leave any foam on yourself and scrub hard as being completely cleansed of any possible outside bacteria you might bring, once that’s done leave your towel and make sure it’s also clean and deprived of any foam. If you find yourself being uncomfortable around others naked take the towel with you.
This is the most important part, try out the different baths, don’t be shy, trust us you have no worries and you probably have nothing to be embarrassed by in the first place, besides you have nothing no one has probably seen. Choose the right bath carefully some baths contain mild electricity if this comes shockingly to you avoid the bath with the electricity symbol on it, try instead of the hot bath slowly testing out the temperature, no need to talk to strangers just relax and feel at home this is the essence of bathhouses. Try to reflect on your day and just enjoy yourself.
After Bathing makes sure you wipe yourself completely with the towel you brought with yourself, leave the premise quietly try not to bother other people as Japanese people appreciate their privacy greatly, find the locker room get dressed and you are good to go. After a couple of visits you will also feel right at home and in case we didn’t mention one golden rule, try not to urinate inside the bath under all costs, Japanese Baths contain special chemicals which will turn the coloration of the water bright purple and you will be caught, other than that Have Fun!
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