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Let's Check Out a Sento (a Public Bathhouse)!

Lucas and Tadao are friends in the same social circle, and they are soon to participate in a running marathon. In the change rooms one day after practice, they strike up a conversation.

Let's Check Out a Sento (a Public Bathhouse)!

Lucas

Oh, it's cold! I wasn't really aware of it while training, but having finished, I now realize just how cold it is.

Tadao

Cooling down is the athlete's greatest enemy. Once I have finished here, I intend to visit a sento in order to warm up.

Lucas

A sento? I must admit that I am very interested in the idea; however, I have the impression that the rules associated with Japanese public bathhouses are rather difficult. Thus, I have never been to one.

Tadao

Really? If that's the case, why not accompany me today?

Lucas

Hold on, I am not carrying any toiletries such as shampoo with me at the moment.

Tadao

No hassle. It is possible to buy what you don't have at the sento. By the way, you don't have any tattoos, do you?

Lucas

No, I don't have any ink. Are tattoos a no-no? Talking about back in Australia, many folks get ink for reasons of fashion...

Tadao

Here in Japan, many sento refuse entry to people with tattoos.

Lucas and Tadao continue their conversation while heading in the direction of the sento.

Tadao

Recently, when visiting sento, I have come across patrons who I assume are foreign tourists. Is visiting sento a popular tourist pastime?

Lucas

Now you mention it, I have a friend visiting Tokyo next month. I also believe he has applied to participate in a sento tour. I suppose he has done this because at home we don't really have a culture of bathing along with strangers while being in the buff. Thus, there is a strong interest in Japan's sento culture.

Tadao

Japan's sento culture is both very old and very interesting, and I am very happy that others also have an interest in it. In fact, here in Tokyo there are a number of sento that have been in business continuously since the Edo Period. When such sento were established, they were viewed as somewhere to take a rest and somewhere where local information and news could be exchanged among people.

Lucas

You are talking about the tradition of having "a relationship with nothing to hide"?

Tadao

That is correct. Furthermore, in that these days the usage of sento by Japanese patrons continues to decline, I am very happy that non-Japanese people have an interest in the sento culture. That being said, however, I sometimes witness foreign patrons getting in trouble because they are ignorant of sento etiquette.

Lucas

I'm not too confident about my knowledge either…

Tadao

Actually, the last time I visited a sento, I struck up an acquaintance with a foreign patron who seemed to be very well-versed in the etiquette. I really wanted to find out from where he gained his knowledge. He told me that he had watched a video entitled, "On the way to enter the public bathhouse," which was put out by Ota City. In addition to English, this video also introduces sento etiquette in Chinese and Korean.

Lucas

That sounds really helpful!

Tadao

It seems that we have arrived at our destination. This large noren (store curtain) indicates a sento. Look here, it seems they have pamphlets in different languages.

Lucas

That's a great help. Let's have a look at what it says, "Please remove your underpants before getting into the bath. Please rinse your body of soap before getting in the bath. Please do not put your towel in the bath, or wash your body while in the bath. When returning to the changing area, please use your towel to thoroughly dry yourself." I see, I understand.

Tadao

Lucas, you seem rather cold. Let's continue this discussion later in the bath!

●"On the way to enter the public bathhouse, for foreign guests" Ota City
http://www.city.ota.tokyo.jp/kanko/syoukai/gaikokujinnotamenosento.html
*Gives links to videos in Japanese, English, simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese and Korean.

●Tokyo Sento Association
http://1010.or.jp/english/index.html
*Publishes "Sento," a pamphlet available in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean. Please inquire with your local sento or the Tokyo Sento Association in order to obtain a copy.