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

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 "Fuku no Yu."

"Fuku no Yu":
A Magnificent Bath House Where You Can Bask in a Blessed Feeling

"Fuku no Yu" (bath of good fortune), which was renovated in the winter of 2011, is getting noticed for its flowery design, something you won't find in bath houses of the past. The theme is "a bath house with a blessed feeling." It is particular about the coloring, based on feng shui theory, and the spatial design, which takes after the Seven Deities of Good Fortune of the local Yanesen area.

The painted picture for "Benzaiten no Yu" (bath of the goddess Benzaiten) is the work of Mr. Kiyoto Maruyama. The pop art illustrations of the Seven Deities of Good Fortune, painted on the partition boards in the bathroom, are also captivating.

This pot-shaped earthen bath is sized for 1 person and has excellent design.

There are two types of bathrooms: "Daikokuten no Yu" (bath of the god Daikoku), decorated with a painted picture of a red Mount Fuji and a tile picture of pine trees; and "Benzaiten no Yu," arranged with a painted picture of Mount Fuji and a tile picture of a flax-leaf pattern.

We hear that the bath house requested the painted pictures from 2 bath house painters, so it's very luxurious! The tubs are lit up and there are wall pictures of surpassing presence in the background, making for an elegant sense of refinement that calls to mind Noh theater (a traditional Japanese form of theater)! It seems as though one's spirits could be lifted just from being in this bathroom, overflowing with vibrant colors.

For the water, the bath house uses high-quality well water from the local area. In "Daikokuten no Yu" you can experience a manmade radium hot spring, and in "Benzaiten no Yu" you can enjoy a medicated bath that changes every week, based around natural herbal medicines. The men's and women's bath areas change each week, so if you have time to spare during your trip, we would definitely like you to experience both.

On the day we covered the bath house, the "Benzaiten no Yu" medicated bath featured peach water with a sweet aroma.

This is "Daikokuten no Yu," decorated with a painted picture by Mr. Morio Nakajima. The tub is outfitted with a jet bath.

The outward appearance and the entrance have a refined design reminiscent of a Japanese-style inn.

The shop curtain does not bear the standard "yu" mark (meaning bath), but a "fu" mark (from "fuku"--good fortune).

The lighting in the dressing rooms also has a stylish feel similar to that of an established inn.

Fuku no Yu
5-41-5 Sendagi, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo Phone: 03-3823-0371 Hours: 11 AM - 12 AM (from 8 AM on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays) Open every day Access: 5-minute walk from Hon-komagome Station (Tokyo Metro Namboku Line) Bath Entrance Fee: 450 yen for adults

Bath House Entry and Manners: Things You'll Want to Know!

1. When entering the bathroom, take off every article of clothing, including underwear. Put your clothes into a locker and lock it.

2. Before entering the bath, first wash your body thoroughly in the washing area. Avoid entering the bathtub with soap suds on your body.

3. Avoid completely submerging yourself in the bathtub. In addition, be careful not to get the water from the bathtub onto your towel.

4. Before leaving the bathroom, thoroughly wipe the water from your body.

5. When leaving the bath, the standard thing to do is drink a cold bottle of milk!