Live Music While Bathing in a Sento?! Check Out Sauna no Umeyu in Kyoto!
Sauna no Umeyu is a unique sento (public bathhouse) in the Kawaramachi-Gojo area that's become a hot topic among college students lately. It's a traditional sento that has various live events and offers various items for sale. You can also learn about basic sento manners here, so please read them before heading out to a public bath!
Aug 10 2017 (Sep 09 2020)
What is Sauna no Umeyu?
"Sento," public bathhouses, are one of Japan's well-known traditions. Sento have been loved for centuries since locals can easily stop by. Sauna no Umeyu is a sento in Gojo Rakuen, and we were able to interview the owner, Mr. Sanjiro Minato.
In recent years, because of changes in people's daily lifestyles, the number of sento have decreased. Umeyu, a sento with a history of over 100 years, was once in danger of closing as well. When Mr. Minato heard that, as a lover of sento, he took over the business, renovated it, and reopened it in 2015. He works hard to protect the sento culture while he manages the business.
They hold events popular with young people in the sento itself!
On Thursdays, when the sento is closed, they hold various events on a regular basis. In the bathing and/or changing areas, they hold live music performances, talk events, rakugo performances, and more, and flea markets in front of the building.
The day we went to interview him, there was a live music performance in the changing area!
How to utilize a traditional sento
The sento is set up so that there's an open space right at the entrance.
1. From the desk to the bath
At the entrance, they sell different kinds of bath products.
The shampoo and body soap are available in the bath, and there are other amenities such as hair dryers. Women can use the available moisturizer and makeup remover if they wish. Towel rentals only cost 30 yen, so one of the great points of this sento is that you can stop by with almost nothing. The staff speak English. Also, most public sento do not allow people with tattoos to bathe there, but at Umeyu, tattoos are OK!
This is the men's changing area.
These are the lockers in the women's changing room.
The changing rooms are wide and have lockers with keys so you can feel safe leaving your things here. Please put all your clothing in there. However, they can't store luggage, so please try to drop them off in coin lockers at the nearest station or at your hotel.
2. To the baths!
This is the men's bath. They have various baths, including a jet bath, a medicinal bath where they change the additive daily, a cold water bath, an electric bath, and of course, a sauna.
The electric bath is definitely one that you can only try in Japan. Please enjoy the tingling sensation of the water as controlled electric currents run through it! Will you become addicted to the mysterious feeling?
You can use the sauna without having to pay extra.
This is the boiler that keeps the water warm (*we received special permission to enter; it is usually off-limits). The water is natural spring water, and it's kept warm via burning firewood, a style that is rarely seen nowadays.
3. Recommendations for after your bath
You should enjoy a cold drink after your bath. It's perfect for your heated body!
Umeyu has a small courtyard that's available as a smoking space.
They also have original sento goods that are very popular with young people lately. These are perfect for souvenirs since you can't find them easily anywhere else!
※They don't have an official website, just a Twitter.
The sento is a place used by various people on a daily basis, so there are basic manners to observe so that everyone can happily use the sento without worry. Since you've come all this way to enjoy one, please remember the following rules.
1. Keep your towel out of the bath.
2. Keep your hair out of the bath. (*There are hair ties available in the women's bath.)
3. Don't wash your face in the bath.
4. Wash your body well before you enter the bath.
5. Dry yourself with your towel before you return to the changing room.
(*These manners were suggested by Mr. Minato himself.)
Since the sento is used most often by locals, please take care to not be chaotic while in the bath. There are explanations written in English and Chinese in both the changing and bathing areas.
Sauna no Umeyu is one of Kyoto's most recommended sento, so please stop by to enjoy a leisurely time.
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.