A sentoo (銭湯) is a public bathhouse. Even though people have bathtubs at home, a sentoo (銭湯) is a bit different from your ordinary bathtub.
A sentoo (銭湯) will have separate sections for each gender. Male children up to ten years of age can go with their mothers. Other than that, the gender division is strictly enforced. That means no peeking! If you’re caught peeking in the opposite sex’s changing room, you’re definitely going to take a trip to the police station, so mind your sentoo manners! The men’s area will have a bluish door with the word otoko (男) on it. The women’s side is red with the word for onna (女) on it. Otoko = man. Onna = woman.
Every sentoo (銭湯) has a locker room where you store your clothes and other belongings. Before you enter the locker room you have to pay an entrance fee. Each sentoo (銭湯) has their own rates. Some charge for the number of hours you plan to stay, while others charge a flat fee no matter how long or short you stay. Once you’ve paid, you’ll be given a key with your locker number on it. In some places, you can store your belongings in any random lockers, except for the ones that are reserved for regular customers.
You are not permitted to wear any clothing once you enter the public bathing area. The only thing you can bring is a small bucket with soap, shampoo, back scrubber, small towel and maybe some sandals. They sell these things at the sentoo (銭湯), but they’re on the pricy side. They bathing area also contains small stools that you can sit on. These stools have been used, so I personally place a towel on the stool, just in case.
The floor of the bathing area is covered with tiles, which can cause your barefoot to get very hot. The bathhouse that I go to regularly, allows people to bring clog-like sandals, so I bring sandals. The sandals allow me to walk around with ease without stinging my feet. However, check with the person at the front desk to make sure you can do this. Not all places allow footwear in the bathing area.
The waters of the sentoo (銭湯) are steaming hot. You can cool off in another room with a bathtub full of cold water. The catch is that you have to pay an extra fee. There’s a person watching at the entrance to this room, so you probably won’t be able to sneak past without paying. Besides, you need to show your wristband, which proves that you’ve paid the extra fee. One way to cool down without having to pay such a big fee is to buy cold drinks at the vending machines.
So why go to a sentoo when you have a bathtub at home? It’s just relaxing. The water never gets cold and you can sit in the water for hours just resting. Too bad I don’t own a sentoo. If I did, I’d go there practically every day.
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