Tag Archives: onsen

Japan Word of the Day #74 – Sentou (Communal Bath)

Today’s Word is: Sentou (銭湯)

Tired of small bath and shower space? If you are comfortable sharing bath with others, sentou might be a good place to visit. Sentou is a communal bathhouse that has a large bath tub for several people to use at a time. Even though the number of sentou has been decreasing over years, there are still approximately 5500 sentou in Japan today. (Excluding onsen, which uses natural hot spring water)

In Edo period (17th-19th centuries), communal bathhouses were popular, but they were different from today’s sentou. A bathhouse at the time was sectioned by a heavy, decorative gate called “zakuroguchi” to keep steam inside the room. A shallow bathtub was placed inside this steamy room (similar to sauna), so people would soak their bottom half of bodies in bath, and use steam for upper bodies.


Past the red gate, you can see there is a pool of hot water inside (you have to climb up the edge first to get in). Inside of the room looks like this.


In the drawing it seems like there’s good lighting, but in reality, there was no light, no window to keep steam inside as much as possible. Therefore some petty crimes and inappropriate conduct (it was co-ed, and it’s dark, so you can guess what was gonna happen!) were often to take place here.

Today’s sentou is a lot more spacious and clean.


Modern sentou usually has separate rooms for men and women. People usually go in naked (no swimming suits!) The general rules of using sentou is the same as using onsen, and you can look up onsen etiquette pretty easily online!

Image sources: Wikipedia, Edo no Yuya, Mizore Matsumoto

Animals Love Hot Springs in Japan

Japan has some of the most amazing, beautiful hot springs in the world. Naturally, Japanese people love taking baths, and so do some animals!
Here is a collection of photos capturing adorable animals soaking in onsen (hot springs).

1) Jigokudani Yaen Park In Nagano Prefecture is known for attracting monkeys that reside in the area. Everyone looks so happy taking soaks!

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2) Hakodate Botanical Garden in Hokkaido is home for many Nihonzaru, or Japanese mascaques. Visitors can view these monkeys enjoy hot springs from December to May every year. Some of the monkeys lose hair from taking baths all the time, but it regrows when weather gets warmer.

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3) Japan Racing Association (JRA) Hakodate Headquarter in Hokkaido is the only facility ran by JRA offering hot springs for racehorses. Here, horses can relax after a long day of racing, and also it attracts many horses that seek treatment for joint inflammation and injuries. Just like humans!


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4) Izu Shaboten Park in Shizuoka Prefecture attracts my capybaras looking for relaxation in hot springs. Capybaras are animals that just love

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It’s said that there are about 16 spots in Japan you can regularly spot capybaras in hot springs. This park is one of them!

5) Semi Onsen in Iwate Prefecture is a hot spring facility and ryokan for humans, but they also offer a tub specially made for dogs and cats.

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6) Takaragawa Onsen in Gunma has a long history of sharing hot springs with bears in this area. It used to be a place where visitors get to actually hang out with bears in the hot springs, but since Japan’s animal control regulations were introduced, the facility no longer allows bears to take baths freely near humans. These are some old photos from back in the day when it was okay to do so.


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7) Hells of Beppu (Yamajigoku) in Oita Prefecture uses its warm water from hot spring to provide an optimal habitat for a hippopotamus called “Shohei-kun.”


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Due to the steam from hot springs, this area stays relatively warm all year long, making it possible to have elephants, flamingos, and other animals that usually live in warmer countries.

8) Nagasaki Bio Park is another spot you can watch Capybaras taking baths in hot springs during winter (December to February). They even have their own showers! Sometimes the staff would throw in some yuzu citrus and pomelo fruits to make it even more relaxing. It’s like capybara spa!





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9) Yamazaki Ryokan, Iwama Onsen in Ishikawa Prefecture is sort of a hidden spot. It is a small, classic Japanese inn not too well known for tourists and only opens for summer to autumn. They offer nice reclusive hot springs for human visitors. Also, using the overflown water from the main hot spring, they provide a special hot tub for dogs.


A big old sign states “Onsen Only for Dogs”


This is a dog that regularly shows up in this special dog spa. So cute with the towel on her head!




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According to the dog’s owner, she sometimes almost fall asleep while soaking in this bath. How adorable!



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Just from seeing these photos, now I want to go to Japanese onsen too! Japanese people care a great deal about bath culture. You can see their attention even in regular bath tubs installed in houses (a lot of the times the bath tubs come with automatic devices to reheat/keep temperature of water for hours), and a lot of the time family members share bath water, so when one person is done, the next person can use the same water. You can even get a special pipe that pulls the bath water into washing machines, so you can reuse the water for cleaning clothes. They don’t waste it! As you can see, soaking in hot tubs is a significant part of Japanese life ^_^