In my travels around the world, only in Japan (OIJ) that I was exposed to communal bathing in “birthday suit.” As I was onboard a ship for more than 2 years, I’ve visited & swum in various beaches. What a culture shock when I was introduced to “sento” in my first month in Japan! I turned down the first invitation and it took months before I experienced it, as there was no choice anymore.
For months in Tokyo, I endured going to coin showers as my first apartment doesn’t have any bathroom. There were offers to take a bath in some houses but I opted to have my own schedule and pace. Thank goodness to my first Japanese church friend who gave his company’s extra portable bathroom. Their construction company received more than 1 unit bath that they need to throw it away as they don’t have extra space and just a hassle in their workplace. As the saying goes here, “The locals’ trash is the foreigners’ treasure.”
Gaining more Japanese friends and hosting more Filipinos & foreigners in my small apartment, I was encouraged to use a public bath for us to bathe together. Unknowingly, there was a newly-renovated “sento” in a Japanese traditional structure which is surrounded by trees. It’s just across my apartment. Slowly, I got used to it and it’s my “welcome gesture” to my foreign guests. I understand best their shock in this initiation to Japanese bath culture.
My regular guests from overseas now look forward to going to “sento” after their long flights. They agree with me that it’s very relaxing and induce them to good night sleep.
In my city, there’s only one known “sento” and I became their regular customer. I’m always the one “closing their shop” — the very last client of the day and get a chance to bathe together with the matriarch of the family-owner.
I asked permission if I can feature their public bath in my blog and the owner said, “Subetedaijoubu!” (Everything is okay!) Great that they have free wi-fi and so I can upload right away the photos of some of their unique corners & collections. Well, I cannot go to the male area tonight.
Would you like to try Japan’s public bath?