Strip down and soak in a Japanese bath: bath house tradition (with video)

by TripleLights travel specialist

 

When you stroll around Tokyo or Kyoto in Japan, you will sometimes come across a high chimney. In Japan this can only mean one thing: 'bath house'.  Originally, bath houses (sentou銭湯 in Japanese) were places in the city where a large bath tub and lots of showers were installed, where people got together at the end of the working day to soak in the hot water.

 

This article will introduce three things you should know about the Japanese bath house.

 

1.  Viewing art while being naked

2. The water's color changes regularly

3.  What is the drink of choice after having a bath?

 

1.  In Japan, it is not allowed to enter public baths in swimsuits or underwear. Thus, all visitors are completely naked. And before those naked people arises what has become standard at the bath house: artwork on the walls in paint or tiles. (* for explanation on other manners in the bath house, see http://www.ota1010.com/sentou.cgi?code=e. ) All the paintings depict various beautiful natural sights in Japan, but paintings of Mt. Fuji remain a long-time favorite. Other popular paintings are of autumn leaves or waterfalls. Why is Mt. Fuji so popular? The reason for that lies in bath-house-history. Back in the day, when children would splash around in the baths, one bath house owner thought to himself: “what if I had a nice picture on the wall? Then, even the children would take a bath quietly, enjoying the view”. The picture he chose was that of Mt. Fuji. The reason for this was that Mt. Fuji is believed to bring good fortune in Japan, and the bath house owner hoped good fortune would mean more customers coming to his bath house. Thus he invited a painter and shortly thereafter he had the mountain covering one of his bath's walls. This news spread fast under other bath house owners, and one after the other ordered paintings of Mt. Fuji on their bath's walls. It almost became a competition who had the nicest painting. This is what led to the tradition of art inside bath houses.

Strip down and soak in a Japanese bath: bath house tradition (with video)

2. These days, houses in Japan are all equipped with baths. Although the necessity to go to the public bath in order to become clean is no longer there, lots of people still frequent the many bath houses in the country. It is the changing water that makes it enjoyable for these people to come so often. What changes about the water is for instance its color, its beneficial effects or its scent, so you can enjoy the changes with all of your senses. Sometimes they offer black baths with the deep smell of dark roast coffee, or pure white 'milk baths'. Or sometimes you can encounter medicinal plants or fruits floating around in the bath water. If you can appreciate these variations, you might also become hooked on Japanese bath houses.

 

3. When you get out from the bath, you will probably feel really thirsty. What Japanese people drink at this moment is neither green tea nor cider, but what is called 'milk-coffee'. It is not known exactly why 'milk-coffee' has become the standard bath house drink, but it might well be that since a young age, Japanese are told that they should drink 'milk-coffee' after bathing and it has stuck with everyone since. Also, especially for men, there is a special way of drinking 'milk-coffee'. With the 'milk-coffee' in one hand and the other on your waist, you gulp it down in one go, followed by a 'Phaaaa!' (the exclamation sound of sheer deliciousness). It's like they're showing off how good their 'milk-coffee' is to any bystanders. It often works, because it is said that many people pick up their own 'milk-coffee' after seeing someone else drink.

 

Apart from this, there are many other interesting things such as goodies and communication opportunities at your local bath house, but I invite you to see for yourself. When you visit Japan, make sure you check out the local bath house near your accommodation.

 

Did you like my article?

If you are interested to know more and save your time during your trip to Tokyo, You can send a message to our local guides to get a customized itinerary and quotation for an unforgettable experience.

In the TripleLights website you can find the best professional guides all over Japan to help you plan your trip. Check our local guides for Tokyo


24 Oct 2014

Plan your trip to Tokyo

Chat with a local tour guide who can help organize your trip.
Get Started

Recent Tour Reviews in Tokyo

“ Exciting and fun filled tour experience with Junichi ”

Excellent
1 hour ago Traveler: Libertine -   Tour Guide: Junichi

The best tour experience ever! Junichi is so patient with our group (with kids). Also, we have not met an energetic person as he is. He is also very polite and he had a thousand smile for all of us every time. We had so much fun.
read more

“ All the essence of Tokyo ”

Excellent
6 hours ago Traveler: Hector -   Tour Guide: Dai

We spent 2 days with Dai and he was great. He showed us the west side the first gay and then the west side. He explained to us not only the landmarks but all the culture and behavior rules Japanese. He also recommend us excellent street food that of course we enjoyed. We strongly recommend Dai for your Tokyo experience.
read more

“ Our Engagement vacation trip! ”

Excellent
8 hours ago Traveler: Byron -   Tour Guide: Eiko

Eiko was wonderful! She is an excellent guide and her demeanor is great as well. In addition to showing us around Tokyo she assisted me with my marriage engagement plans as well. She could not have been nicer or more helpful on our big trip! I highly recommend her as your personal guide when visiting Tokyo and surrounding areas. I recommend anyone to visit Tokyo and anywhere else in Japan. The Jap...
read more

“ A fantastic guide ”

Excellent
18 hours ago Traveler: Beth -   Tour Guide: Hiroki

Hiroki is very knowledgeable. Our tour was interesting and fun.
read more

“ Absolutely amazing guide! ”

Excellent
1 day ago Traveler: Debbie -   Tour Guide: YUKIKO

We scheduled 2 days with Kukiko (one for Tokyo and one for Kamakura), and had such a wonderful time that we added a third day in Hakone with her! Yukiko is one of those rare guides who makes you immediately feel at ease and in fact treats you as if you are her treasured guest. We quickly connected with her and felt as if she was part of our family. She is extremely knowledgeable about the sights ...
read more

“ Great guide for Tokyo! ”

Excellent
1 day ago Traveler: Annelize -   Tour Guide: Yuki

Yuki was an exceptional guide for our 3 days in Tokyo. He is flexible, patient, knowledgeable and is happy to do both serious and fun things. We went to art galleries, the Imperial palace, various gardens and markets and even the Kawaii Monster cafe! He accommodated our dietary requirements and variations on the agreed itinerary. Yuki has a good sense of humour and speaks English very well. He als...
read more

“ Metro Master! ”

Excellent
1 day ago Traveler: Melissa -   Tour Guide: Dai

Dai showed us around Tokyo for our first time in the city. He’s amazing at getting around, allowing us to see as much as possible in one day. We flowed thru the metro stations with such ease. He knows his city well and was very flexible with our group of four when we wanted to make detours for coffee and shopping. Dai is a wealth of subtle knowledge. Your visit to Japan will be enhanced by spendin...
read more

“ Great and detailed ”

Excellent
1 day ago Traveler: Todd -   Tour Guide: Junko

Junko is great in explaining the details of Japan and its culture. Very flexible during tours. We were able to see a lot of Tokyo in one day. We will definitely come back for more.
read more

“ Great family tour of Tokyo ”

Excellent
1 day ago Traveler: Amanda -   Tour Guide: Arnold

Arnold was the perfect guide for my jet lagged family. We arrived and hit the ground running. Arnold took us to all the best spots and accommodated the kids perfectly when they were getting tired. We saw the fish market, shrines, temples and the shopping in Shibuya. His recommendations were great and he was very personable but still professional. It was a great way to learn the transportation...
read more

Related cities

Plan your trip to Tokyo

Chat with a local tour guide who can help organize your trip.
Get Started