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Public bathhouses in Japan are called [sentos] and they are equipped with a big bathtub to fit a great number of people and the walls are usually decorated with scenery paintings. It would be an interesting experience for foreign visitors to come and visit a sento here. In this article, we will be introducing some sentos here in our capital city, Tokyo. Some of the sento buildings here are of traditional gable structures. However, we should take note that most sentos forbid visitors with tattoos from using their facilities.
1. Jakotsuyu [Asakusa]
This is a popular sento that is located at the back alleys of one of the most popular tourist spots in Tokyo, Asakusa. This newly renovated sento started during the Edo period, still maintains its vintage atmosphere with a few new touches to bring in a brighter more relaxing ambience. The hot water is supplied from groundwater and here you can take a dip in one of their outdoor bathtubs. This would make a great stop once you have finished touring Asakusa.
1-11-11 Asakusa, Taito Ward, Tokyo
http://www.jakotsuyu.co.jp/index.html (Japanese only)
2. Daikokuyu [Kita Senju]
Also known as the King of Sentos, this sento provides a very unique experience to its visitors. The building was built during the early Showa period with Karahafu architectural style roofs. In the bathhouses, you will be amazed with their 7.5m x 3m scenery wall. You can also relax in their outdoor baths or pay an extra fee to enjoy their sauna facilities.
32-6 Senjukotobuki-cho, Adachi Ward, Tokyo
3. Tsukino-yu [Bunkyo-ku]
With a long history since 1933, this building is also built based on the traditional architectural style known as Hafu. The water here is supplied from a well that is heated up to 42℃, which is considered tepid compared to other public bathhouses. This sento also provides special herb baths as the season changes. Of course, like any other bathhouses, there are scenery walls at their indoor baths that showcase the majestic Mount Fuji and one that is a mosaic of Japan’s well-loved carps. Here, you can truly get a traditional Japanese sento experience. Do take note that they do not provide lockers at their changing rooms. Instead they have an open shelf with baskets for you to put your personal belongings.
3−15−7 Mejirodai, Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo
http://www.sentou-bunkyo.com/facility_top/tsuki_no_yu.html (Japanese only)
4. Konparu-yu [Ginza]
This sento is located in a modern building, right in the middle of Ginza’s hustle and bustle main street. Once you step in, you would notice that the interior represents the good old days in Japan with traditional shoe lockers that come with wooden keys. You will also be amazed at their Kutani Ware porcelain tiles and a beautiful painting of Mount Fuji.
8-7-5 Ginza, Chuo Ward, Tokyo
http://www002.upp.so-net.ne.jp/konparu/ (Japanese only)
5. Tsubameyu [Ueno]
This unique sento opens from 6 in the morning, which is perfect for those that want to have an early morning dip. Here, they provide shampoos, conditioners and body soap for visitors to use for free. Towels are also provided but you would have to pay a fee to rent them during your visit. The nearest station to this place is Suehirocho station but you can also walk from Akihabara and that would take about 15 minutes.
3-14-5 Ueno, Taito Ward, Tokyo
6. Fukunoyu [Honkomagome]
This sento just completed its renovations in 2011 and so the facilities carry a new feeling to it. Although the interior of this Edo-themed sento has a luxurious feel to it, the atmosphere in here is calming. Here you have man-made radon baths and herb baths. The bath use here is based on a weekly alternating schedule between men and women. Shampoos and conditioners are also provided.
5-41-5 Sendagi, Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo
http://www.sentou-bunkyo.com/facility_detail/fuku_no_yu.html (Japanese only)
7. Inariyu [Kanda]
This sento is located near Tokyo’s very famous landmark, the Imperial Palace. The water here is provided at 44℃ and its location makes it very convenient for joggers that have their usual jog around the grounds of the Imperial Palace.
1-7-3 Uchi-Kanda, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo
8. Takenoyu [Azabu Juuban]
This sento is located in a residential building and here their waters are heated up to 43℃. Don’t be shocked but the water of their radium pools here is blackish brown. You can also enjoy their sauna facilities for a small fee. As this sento is located near Roppongi, there are quite a number of foreign visitors here. This is a great sento for visitors who have never ever been to a sento in Japan before.
1-15-12 Minami Azabu, Minato Ward, Tokyo
http://homepage3.nifty.com/takenoyu/ (Japanese only)
9. Bunka Yokusen [Ikejiriohashi]
This sento has a very long history that started from 1928, just completed its renovations in 2011. Currently it is located in a modern building and its interiors now adopt a modern Japanese style, making it very different from other traditional sentos in the city. One of their attractions here would have to be their nano-bubble baths that uses soft water, which is said to carry properties that are great for the skin, which we are sure would be much appreciated by female visitors.
3-6-8 Higashiyama, Meguro Ward, Tokyo
http://bunkayokusen.grupo.jp/ (Japanese only)