ROOCAS ONE`s Blog
ROOCAS ONE`s Blog
Japan is world renown for it's hot springs and public baths. Popular films like Studio Ghibli's animated masterpiece Spirited Away helped create a magical image of these bathhouses world wide. But what are they really like?
Bathhouses are often called 銭湯 sento in Japanese and can be found all over the place, often hotels will have their own sento as well as having some in your neighbourhood. There are even sento spa resorts. The difference with sento is that their water isn't naturally heated by hot springs. It is just normal tap water heated, but it's not uncommon for them to have various temperature baths and special baths with bath salt concoctions mixed into them. You're far more likely to come accross sento than onsen though and they tend to be a lot cheaper. Many years ago it was common for houses to not have their own baths or shower rooms, so everyone would go to the sento to bathe. Nowadays it's usually the elderly and those with low income that use neighbourhood sento on a regular basis because accommodation without baths is much cheaper. Though you will meet many who take the occasional trip to the sento to relax or because they want to bathe before getting to their destination. Of course resort sento are a slightly different story as they offer many services like massages too so people will visit for a treat.
Onsen or 温泉 are baths that are natural hot springs heated by the earths volcanic activity. You may know that Japan is very active volcano wise so there are lots of onsen dotted across Japan. The water used is natural spring water too so the minerals and qualities of the water vary by place. One of the most famous onsen is Kusatsu onsen in Gunma prefecture, about a 3 hour drive from Tokyo and is very distinctive looking. People will take specific trips to visit onsen and will often stay in traditional Japanese inns or ryokan with hot springs and it's definitely a relaxing vacation and treat! Even the monkeys make use of the hot springs! Especially when it gets colder you can catch a glimpse of monkeys bathing in the outside onsen to warm up. A popular food in onsen towns is onsen tamago, which are eggs cooked naturally in the hotspring water.
If you do plan on visiting onsen or sento in Japan do keep in mind that many don't accept guests that have tattoos, so make sure to check before going if they allow tattoos or you might get kicked out midway through your bath!
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