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Japanese Sento

At the sento, olden days
Japanese Sento

The bath culture in Japan extends back to the 6th century. In Buddhist teachings, washing dirt from the body was considered to be an important duty. In the early 13th century, the first public bathing facility for people, called a “Sento”, was established, and by the 17th century the number of Sento in Tokyo grew to as many as 500.Heading to the local sento before bed was a daily ritual until homes with private bathrooms became common. Even in today’s uber modern Tokyo, there are still neighborhood sento where people go for the social outlet, and traveling to a hot springs resort to take the waters is a very popular vacation choice.

At the sento, all washing and shampooing is done outside of a large soaking pool. Only after the body has been thoroughly cleansed do bathers enter the pool. The water temperature is over 100 degrees and has a relaxing effect similar to a jacuzzi, without the jets running. Emerging from the sento, bathers take their time cooling off, and then head off to bed, guaranteed of a sound night’s sleep. 
Travelers to Japan can experience a Sento by staying at a ryokan (Japanese inn). Although guest rooms have private baths, the large, and often beautifully landscaped, public baths are open to all guests and are a major element of the ryokan experience.

Asia Answers provides a step by step guides to Sento etiquette in our Travel Tips. 

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