For centuries, bathing has been an important tradition in Japan. People would take their bathing items and head to the nearest public bathing spot, known as a sento in Japanese. The tradition of going to a sento and enjoying a relaxing moment in the giant hot tub is still being appreciated to this day.
The first sento in Japan appeared around 1590 during the Edo period. Usually when you enter a sento, there is a small platform upon which a person is sitting. That person collects the usage fee (The fee for using a sento is usually uniform, however it depends on which prefecture you are in. For example, using a sento in Tokyo would cost 450 JPY for adults). After you have paid the fee, you will head to the changing room which is separated into sections for women or for men. The bathtub is also separated in the same manner. In the early days, to prevent the heat from escaping, sentos had no windows and were very dark. Today, there are individual showers and a large tub - often with a picture of Mt. Fuji on the back wall. What you must remember when using a sento is that you must bring your own bathing items. You can purchase them there, but it is more common to bring your own. Towels, shampoos, body soap, and other essential items may not be provided by the facility.
Although sentos have been loved by many people for decades, the number of people who use them has been declining. In addition to people having private baths in their homes, "Super Sento" have begun to emerge. A super sento is a bathing facility that is much larger than an old-fashioned sento and can be described as a modern sento. What makes a super sento interesting is the number of unique bathtubs that are available. For example, there are Jacuzzis, aesthetic baths, outdoor baths (called roten-buro), bedrock baths, and other unique bathtubs in which to relax your body. They also have saunas and steam rooms for people to use (though not all super-sentos have these facilities). In addition to the unique baths, there are places where people can eat. In total, it is a large facility that can be enjoyed individually, with friends, and with family members. Of course, because it is more advanced than an old-style sento and has more varieties of entertainment, the cost of using a super sento is about 500 to 800 JPY per visit. Additional fees will be charged for extra services such as towel rental and massages. However, to enjoy a nice and relaxing time, going to a super-sento is definitely worth the trouble!!
So will you decide to use the old-fashioned sento or the modern super-sento? Relax yourself after your travels and enjoy a nice warm bath!