SENTō (銭湯) is a type of Japanese communal bath house where customers pay for entrance. Traditionally these bath houses have been quite utilitarian, with a tall barrier separating the sexes within one large room, a minimum of lined up faucets on both sides and a single large bath for the already washed bathers to sit in among others. Since the second half of the 20th century, these communal bath houses have been decreasing in numbers as more and more Japanese residences now have baths. Some Japanese find social importance in going to public baths, out of the theory that physical proximity/intimacy brings emotional intimacy, which is termed skinship in pseudo-English Japanese. Others go to a sentō because they live in a small housing facility without a private bath or to enjoy bathing in a spacious room and to relax in saunas or jet baths that often accompany new or renovated sentōs.
Another type of Japanese public bath is onsen , which uses hot water
from a natural hot spring. In general the word onsen means that the
bathing facility has at least one bath filled with natural hot spring
water. However throughout the
* 1 Layout and architectural features
* 1.1 Entrance area
* 1.2 Changing room
* 1.3 Bathing area
* 1.4 Boiler room
* 2 Etiquette
* 2.1 Equipment * 2.2 Entrance and undressing * 2.3 Bathing area
* 3 Social and cultural aspects
* 3.1 Etiquette * 3.2 Tattoos
* 4 Sanitation * 5 Pricing
* 6 History
* 7 See also * 8 References * 9 Further reading * 10 External links
LAYOUT AND ARCHITECTURAL FEATURES
General Layout of a
There are many different looks for a Japanese sentō, or public bath. Most traditional sentō, however, are very similar to the layout shown on the right. The entrance from the outside looks somewhat similar to a temple, with a Japanese curtain (暖簾, noren ) across the entrance. The curtain is usually blue and shows the kanji 湯 (yu, lit. hot water) or the corresponding hiragana ゆ. After the entrance there is an area with shoe lockers, followed by two long curtains or door, one on each side. These lead to the datsuijo (脱衣場, changing room), also known as datsuiba for the men and women respectively. The men's and the women's side are very similar and differ only slightly.
Bandai in the Edo
A public bathing facility in
Inside, between the entrances is the bandai (番台), where the attendant sits. The bandai is a rectangular or horseshoe-shaped platform with a railing, usually around 1.5 to 1.8 m high. Above the bandai is usually a large clock. Immediately in front of the bandai is usually a utility door, to be used by the attendants only. The dressing room is approximately 10 m by 10 m, sometimes partly covered with tatami sheets and contains the lockers for the clothes. Often, there is a large shelf storing equipment for regular customers.
The ceiling is very high, at 3 to 4 m. The separating wall between
the men's and the women's side is about 1.5 m high. The dressing room
also often has access to a very small
The bathing area is separated from the changing area by a sliding
door to keep the heat in the bath. An exception are baths in the
Okinawa region, as the weather there is usually already hot, and there
is no need to keep the hot air in the bath.
The bathing area is usually tiled. Near the entrance area is a supply of small stools and buckets. There are a number of washing stations at the wall and sometimes in the middle of the room, each with usually two faucets (karan, カラン, after the Dutch word kraan for faucet), one for hot water and one for cold water, and a shower head.
At the end of the room are the bathtubs , usually at least two or
three with different water temperatures, and maybe a 'denki buro'
(電気風呂, electric bath). In the
Behind the bathing area is the boiler room (釜場, kamaba), where the water is heated. This may use oil or electricity, or any other type of fuel such as wood chippings. The tall chimneys of the boilers are often used to locate the sentō from far away. After the war Tokyo often had power outages when all bath house owners turned on the electric water heating at the same time.
Many modern sentō have a sauna with a bathtub of cold water (around 17 degrees Celsius) just outside it for cooling off afterwards. Visitors are typically expected to pay an extra fee to use the sauna, and are often given a wristband to signify this payment.
This section describes the basic procedure to use a sentō. The public bath is an area where the uninitiated can seriously offend or inconvenience the regulars.
Taking a bath at a public sentō requires at a bare minimum a small towel and some soap /shampoo . Attendants usually sell these items for 100-200 yen. Many people bring two towels; a handtowel for drying and a handtowel or washcloth for washing. A nylon scrubbing cloth or scrub brush with liquid soap is normally used for washing. Other body hygiene products may include a pumice stone, toothbrush, toothpaste, shaving equipment, combs, shower caps, pomade, make up products, powder, creams, etc. Some regular customers store their bucket of bathing equipment on open shelves in the dressing room.
ENTRANCE AND UNDRESSING
At onsen, or hot springs, the water contains minerals, and many people do not rinse off the water from the skin, to increase exposure to the minerals. In a regular sentō, people usually rinse off at the faucets.
SOCIAL AND CULTURAL ASPECTS
1901 image of
As mentioned above, the Japanese public bath is one area where the
uninitiated can upset regular customers by not following correct
bathing etiquette designed to respect others. In particular; not
washing before bathing, introducing soap into the bath water and
Some ports in
It's common to hear people say, "gokuraku, gokuraku" when they get into the bath. It means something to the level of divine pleasure; it's a good feeling for the body and the soul.
Some public baths have signs refusing entry for people with tattoos. However, one may be allowed in if the tattoos are not too obvious. If one ventures to a public bathing place that is publicly owned, this should not present a problem as they have a duty to let all tax-paying citizens in. The original reason behind the ban was to keep out the yakuza (officially called the "violence groups" by the police).
Japanese public baths have experienced infrequent outbreaks of
Interior of a modern
Rules and pricing are regulated per prefecture based on local
committees. Basic entrance fee for adults at a sentō in
In Tokyo, the price for children to enter have remained unchanged: 6
to 11 year olds can enter at ¥180 each, while younger children can
enter at ¥80 each. Girls 13 years or younger and boys 8 or younger
are permitted to enter the baths of either gender. In other
prefectures, the cut off age can be as high as 16 in
Most sentō in
Larger scale public bathing facility types are called super sentō and kenkō land , both more expensive than sentō, while super sentō offer a more compromised price.
At ¥300 per adult, the cheapest prefectures to sentō baths are in Yamagata, Tokushima, Nagasaki, Ōita, and Miyazaki.
The origins of the Japanese sentō and the Japanese bathing culture
in general can be traced to the Buddhist temples in
NARA PERIOD TO KAMAKURA PERIOD
Nara period to
Kamakura period is defined as "religious bathing".
Initially, due to its religious background, baths in
The first mentioning of a commercial bath house is in 1266 in the Nichiren Goshoroku (日蓮御書録). These mixed-sex bath houses were only vaguely similar to modern bath houses. After entering the bath, there was a changing room called datsuijo (脱衣場). There the customer also received his/her ration of hot water, since there were no faucets in the actual bath. The entrance to the steam bath was only a very small opening with a height of about 80 cm, so that the heat did not escape. Due to the small opening, the lack of windows, and the thick steam, these baths were usually very dark, and customers often cleared their throats to signal their position to others.
Onna yu ("Bathhouse Women") by
At the beginning of the
At the end of the Edo period, the Tokugawa shogunate (1603–1868) at different times required baths to segregate by sex in order to ensure public moral standards. However, many bath house owners merely partitioned their baths with a small board, allowing some voyeurism to persist. Other baths avoided this problem by having men and women bathe at different times of day, or by catering to one gender exclusively. In spite of this, laws regarding mixed-sex bathing were soon relaxed again.
Contributing to the popularity of public baths in the
As a preventive measure against prostitution, the Tokugawa shogunate stipulated that no more than three yuna serve at any given bath house. However, this rule was widely ignored, causing the shogunate to ban female attendants from bath houses altogether and once again prohibit the practice of mixed-sex bathing. Large numbers of unemployed yuna thereafter moved to official red-light districts, where they could continue their services. Up until 1870, there were also male washing assistants called sansuke (三助, lit. three helps) who would wash and massage customers of both genders. Unlike the yuna, these male attendants were not known to engage in prostitution.
Mixed-sex bathing was prohibited once again after Commodore Perry
Bathing in an Agricultural School in
During the Meiji period (1867–1912) the design of Japanese baths changed considerably. The narrow entrance to the bathing area was widened considerably to a regular-sized sliding door, the bathtubs were sunk partially in the floor so that they could be entered more easily, and the height of the ceiling of the bath house was then doubled. Since the bath now focused on hot water instead of steam, windows could be added, and the bathing area became much brighter. The only difference between these baths and the modern bath was the use of wood for the bathing area and the lack of faucets.
Furthermore, another law for segregated bathing was passed in 1890, allowing only children below the age of 8 to join a parent of the opposite sex.
At the beginning of the
Entrance of a typical sentō in
World War II
Immediately after World War II, resources were scarce and few homeowners had access to a private bath. Private baths began to be more common around 1970, and most new buildings included a bath and shower unit for every apartment. Easy access to private baths led to a decline in customers for public bath houses, and subsequently the number of bath houses is decreasing. Some Japanese young people today are embarrassed to be seen naked, and avoid public baths for this reason. Some Japanese are concerned that without the "skinship " of mutual nakedness, children will not be properly socialized.
While the traditional sentō is in decline, many bath house operators have adjusted to the new taste of the public and are offering a wide variety of experiences. Some bath houses emphasize their tradition, and run traditionally-designed bath houses to appeal to clientele seeking the lost Japan. These bath houses are also often located in scenic areas and may include an open-air bath. Some also try drilling in order to gain access to a hot spring, turning a regular bath house into a more prestigious onsen.
Other bath houses with less pristine buildings or settings change
into so called super sentō and try to offer a wider variety of
services beyond the standard two or three bathtubs. They may include a
variety of saunas , reintroduce steam baths, include jacuzzis , and
may even have a water slide. They may also offer services beyond mere
cleansing, and turn into a spa , offering medical baths, massages, mud
baths , fitness centers, etc., as for example the Spa LaQua at the
Wikimedia Commons has media related to SENTO .