Okay, I am jumping days, but yes. I definitely feel like talking about sooner than my other blog entries! After a year of thinking, getting over my nerves, I finally made it to a sento, or a Japanese bathouse. What a nice experience this was. Showers and bathes are always great in my book.
I have memories of watching anime like Ranam ½, Totoro, My Neighbor the Yamadas, One Piece, or other Japanese life anime titles, with the most recent being Higepiyo, that has me just loving the idea of being able to go take showers and baths at a facility that is not just a spa or a gym. The United States does not have communal bathing experiences, based on a conservative or hygienic reason. I imagine that as an Americans, a person who won’t try this is missing out on a Japan or Asian experience.
Prior to Japan 2010, as I was researching the push is for tourists to try the onsen. There are some clear distinction between onsen and sento that affect price. Mineral water vs. tap water is one factor. Another factor is the connection of onsen with a ryokan, so a tourist who is in Japan with a budget, then sento is the answer. Sento by some readings are also considered lesser in numbers, and being swallowed by other factors of apartments having their own bathrooms, or a growing conservatism. There certainly is not as much help in English finding various sento, however there are still some English blogs and resources trying to correct this issue. My concerns were finding a sento that won’t be too shady or too out of place to travel for. Another small reason on why I waited a year to try the sento was a fear of my tattoos, usually Japanese don’t really think highly of tattoos, being synonymous with Yakuzas. Fashion tattoos are questioned though, so my tattoos attracted some attention.
Impressions of Komparu-yu
I found a nice sentou that wasn’t very out of the way, and simple to get to. Ginza’s Komparu-yu, a sento opened since the 1800’s, so with some aspects updated, there are still nuances from yesteryears off Japan. Komparu-yu is definitely a basic sento, and not a super sento. The sento is divided into three main parts, the shoe area, the locker room area and the bath area.
As Rai and I stepped past the blue store sign, past the vending machines, we stopped to put our shoes into individual shoe compartments, each locked and open with a wooden key. I was mentally feeling excited and nervous, and as we stepped into the woman’s bath. We paid an elderly granny, the 450 yen price entrance fee. One of the sento site said that the fee was for 430 yen, but the price has obviously changed. Komparu-yu also has toiletries that a bather can purchase if they didn’t have any. Some sentos said that there are coin lockers, and Komparu-yu had lockers with keys, that bathers can wear like a bracelet on the wrist. After claiming a locker, I stepped into the bath area, where there are also two sections, one a shower/cleaning section where bathers sit first to clean and wash off the body. After going through the normal bath routines, I tested the bath water, and stepped in. Soaking in the tub was great, it was relaxing, and the temperature of the water did take use to. After soaking in the sento, my skin felt egg smooth, so I really hope to be able to go again. After stepping out and rinsing off, I stepped into the locker room, and got dressed. Rai pointed that there was a blow dryer for 20 yen to use. I did see another of those old fashion salon style dryers for 40 yen to use, so there is that option as well.
Rai mentioned to me that there was a majority of elderly woman or tourists at this particular sento, I need to go to another sento to see if that is the case, but with this being in Ginza, I wouldn’t expect differently.
So we left the sento, and got milk from the vending machine. The practice of drinking something after soaking in a sento is definitely for re-hydration purposes. I was definitely thinking about the Japanese animation title, Saki.
So for a cheap way to relax, sentos are a great thing to experience.