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Fun yet bizarre socialization tradition in Japan―Public Bath House Tours(1/3)

Bath houses, or "sento" in Japanese, have been loved by the Japanese for hundreds of years, stretching back to the Edo period. One can enjoy a spacious bath for only 450 yen in these locations, which function as a valuable healing spot for common folk and a place to relax for local residents. An increasing number of facilities have recently undergone bold renovations and are attracting an even larger fan base! By all means, take a tour of these bath houses, which have taken on vibrant personalities, and see their charm for yourself. First we'll cover the traditionally-styled "Chiyo no Yu."

"Chiyo no Yu":
A Traditional Bath House with a Perfect Atmosphere!

"Chiyo no Yu" (water of a thousand generations), established in 1951, stands quietly in the middle of a residential area in Nakano. The wooden bungalow building and the pastel pink earthen walls are full of charm--we even hear that this location has been used for the filming of a TV drama!

Take off your shoes and walk through the entrance, and dressing rooms spread before you, set up with an old-fashioned attendant's booth. Beyond the glass doors lined along the back are the bathrooms, decorated with elegant painted pictures! The painted pictures were produced by Mr. Kiyoto Maruyama, 1 of only 2 bath house painters currently in Japan. In the men's bath area is a painting of Mount Fuji--a bath house standard--and in the women's bath area is a painting of the seascape in Noto, the owner's hometown.

The women's bath area, with a painting of Mitsukejima in Noto. The baths, which
are filled with water at a hot 43.5°C, are equipped with infrared rays and a Jacuzzi.

The high ceiling in the bathroom is painted marine blue, full of a sense of liberation! If you soak your body in the hot water and gaze at the painted pictures, which give off the feeling of a journey, the day's fatigue is sure to drift away. We're told that lots of customers aim to visit on Sunday, when they can enjoy alternative bath water containing ingredients such as yomogi (Japanese mugwort) and herbs.

The picture of Mount Fuji in the men's bath area is a view from Kumomi in Nishiizu. As this is a traditional bathroom with only a partition in the central atrium space between the men's and women's areas, Mount Fuji is also visible from the women's bath area.

The washing area has shampoo and body soap, so all you need to bring is 1 towel.

The shoeboxes have a system in which they lock when you take a numbered wooden tag.

Pay the bath entrance fee at the attendant's booth at the entrance of the dressing rooms and then enter. You can also buy items such as drinks and small towels here.

This is the women's dressing room. After leaving the bath, you can take a rest while having a cold drink.

Wooden buckets, which are rare these days.

Around the lockers in the women's bath area are bathing sets belonging to the old ladies who frequent the bath house.

The massage chair from the 1950s (on the right) is still working!

Chiyo no Yu
3-16-12 Chuo, Nakano-ku, Tokyo Phone: 03-3369-2997 Hours of Operation: 3:45 PM - 12 AM Closed: Saturdays Access: 9-minute walk from Nakano Station (Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line) Bath Entrance Fee: 450 yen