「銭湯探訪 お銭の湯探し」ENGLISH VERSION
public bathhouse report
Osen – Looking for Sento
In Japan there is a custom dating from a long time ago where people go to the sento (public bathhouse) in the town. Sento were located every 200 metres or so in large towns. The sento was a place for not only washing the body and having a relaxing time, but also was a place where local people could interact with each other, and a place for teaching manners to children.
As people began to have bathrooms in their own houses, the number of people using the sento decreased and the number of sento fell; however, there are many attractive sento remaining.
Among the remaining sento there are various kinds, which you can choose from depending on your likes: from traditional structured ones to modern ones equipped with new facilities.
In this series, I will visit and introduce those sento located in Shitamachi Tokyo (Sumida-ku, Koto-ku, Edogawa-ku, Katsushika-ku, Taito-ku）and the Daiba district in Minato-ku, which each have their own unique history and culture.
While you are enjoying a walk in the town, feel free to visit the sento there, and chat with the local people and experience the unique culture of the Japanese sento. Just after having a bath in the sento, if you visit a local restaurant the taste of the food and beer should be exceptional.
“Shitamachi” refers to the old parts of a town in which the culture of the common people and quaint old streets and houses remain. These areas each have their own unique history and culture.
Text and photographs: Akira Fuse.
Akira Fuse: after working at universities and research institutes in Japan and overseas, he became a director of Traditional Arts and Culture Support (TACS) in Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo. He devotes time and effort into preserving traditional arts and culture and it is his declared wish to care for sento culture.
- For how to use the sento, please refer to the home page of the “Tokyo Sento Association”. Tokyo Sento (http://www.1010.or.jp/english/how-to-enjoy-sento)
- The contents of these articles are an English translation of the series “Sento Tanbo・Osen no Yusagashi” (“Osen – Looking for Sento”), which appears in the Totoyomiuri Shimbun, a sister paper of the Yomiuri Shimbun.
- The contents of these articles belong to the Totoyomiuri Shimbunsha. Reproduction without permission is forbidden.