Let’s go to “Sento”, a public bath house!

What is Sento?

The start of bath culture in Japan extends back to the 6th century. In the Buddhist teachings that came to Japan at that time, washing dirt off the body was considered to be an important duty for those who serve Buddha. Later, in the early 13th century, a bathing facility for people called “Sento” was established, and by the 17th century the number of Sento in Edo (old name for Tokyo) grew to as many as 500.

The exterior design of Miyazukuri
Traditional exterior design of Sento

Sento are known for their temple-style architecture called “Miyazukuri”, and this type of Sento can often be seen in Tokyo. When the grand Miyazukuri Sento was built during the period of recovery from the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, it became very popular and since then Miyazukuri has become a typical Sento building style in Tokyo.

Mural of Mt. Fuji in the bath area
In the Sento in Tokyo, a large mural of Mt. Fuji is often painted on the wall in the bath area.

The tradition of painting a mural of Mt. Fuji in the main bath area started in 1912 when the owner of Kikaiyu requested a painter to draw something that would make children happy. The painter was from Shizuoka, so he painted Mt. Fuji. This became very popular and has spread to many Sento in Tokyo since then.

Check the bathing procedure and manners

We will show you the bathing procedure and manners for Sento here.

Shoe locker
A locker to put your shoes away

First, put your shoes in the locker located at the entrance. Lock your locker by pulling the wooden card key out of the locker door and keep your key with you as you enter.

Bandai or a booth
“Bandai” where a person who collects admission fees sits

Pay a fee at the Bandai or the front desk (about 460 yen depending on the area) In traditional Sento, baths for men and women are separated at the entrance and the Bandai faces the bath areas, not the entrance, for security purposes. These days, the front-desk style is mainly used, and the bath areas are separated after you pay the admission fee.

Once you pay the fee, take off your clothes and put them into a locker. Lock the locker, put the key around your wrist, and enter the bath area.

“Karan”, a faucet

When you enter the bath area, be sure to wash your body before soaking in the bath. The karan is a faucet for hot or cold water; the red or bigger one is for hot water and the blue or smaller one is for cold water.

Be careful not to soak your towel in the water when soaking in the bath. Use the towel to dry your body as much as you can when leaving the bath area to go out to the changing room.

Fan and weight scale
Traditional fan (left) and weight scale (right)

The changing room is a place to cool off. Many Sento used to have a huge fan installed in the ceiling, but nowadays most Sento use an air conditioner. You can also manage your health by regularly checking your weight on the scale provided.

Massage chair (left) and hair dryer chair (right)

Massage chairs are best used when your body is relaxed after the bath. There are also hair dryer chairs in some Sento, although these are rare nowadays and are usually only provided in the women’s room. These types of chairs are subject to fees in some Sento.

Japanese garden inside Sento

Some Tokyo-style Sento have a Japanese garden. You can buy drinks at most Sento so if you like, you can relax and enjoy the view of the garden while rehydrating your heated body.

Tattoos are not allowed at some Sento. Check beforehand.

Selection of famous Sento in Japan

Lastly, let us introduce some well-known Sento in Japan that we recommend you visit at least once.

Famous Sento in Tokyo


Daikokuyu, “the King of Sento”

Known as the King of Sento. This gorgeous Miyazukuri house was built around 85 years ago and has a mural of Mt. Fuji.


Address: 32-6 Senju-Kotobukicho, Adachi-ku, Tokyo

Access: 10 min. walk from Kita-Senju Station on JR, Tokyo Metro, Tobu and Tsukuba Express lines

Open: 3:00 pm – 12:00 am, closed on Monday (next day if Monday is a holiday)


Takarayu, known for its grand building

A grand Miyazukuri Sento. The engraved ceiling in the entrance is splendid and there are Japanese colored carp in the Japanese garden. It also has a mural of Mt. Fuji.


Address: 27-1 Senju-Motomachi, Adachi-ku, Tokyo

Access: 20 min. walk from Kita-Senju Station on JR, Tokyo Metro, Tobu and Tsukuba Express lines

Open: 3:00 pm – 11:30 pm, closed on Friday

Musashi-Koyama Onsen, Shimizuyu

Musashi-Koyama Onsen, Shimizuyu (left) and Togoshi-Ginza Onsen (right)
Modern-looking Musashi-Koyama Onsen, Shimizuyu (left) and Togoshi-Ginza Onsen in a building (right)

A modern Japanese Sento with 2 kinds of natural hot spring water. Eggs boiled in hot spring water are popular here.

Musashi-Koyama Onsen, Shimizuyu

Address: 3-9-1 Koyama, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo

Access: 5 min. walk from Musashi-Koyama Station on the Tokyu Meguro Line

Open: 12:00 pm (8:00 am on Sunday) – 12:00 am, closed on Monday (open if Monday is a holiday)

Togoshi-Ginza Onsen

A natural hot spring in a building. Their mural of Mt. Fuji is worth seeing. Men’s and women’s baths switch every day.

Togoshi-Ginza Onsen

Address: 2-1-6 Togoshi, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo

Access: 3 min. walk from Togoshi Station on the Toei Asakusa Line

Open: 3:00 pm – 1:30 am (morning bath available 8:00 am -12:00 pm on Sunday), closed on Friday


Long-established Jakotsuyu has an open-air bath

Established around the end of the Edo period around 150 years ago, their open-air bath has a great atmosphere and is made with lots of natural rocks.


Address: 1-11-11 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo

Access: 3 min. walk from Tawaramachi Station on the Tokyo Metro

Open: 1:00 pm – 12:00 am, closed on Tuesday (next day if Tuesday is a holiday)

Famous Sento in Japan

Taishoyu (Hokkaido)

Taishoyu in Hokkaido (left) and Ebisuyu in Ishikawa Prefecture (right)
Taishoyu in Hokkaido (left) and Ebisuyu in Ishikawa Prefecture (right)

A modern, western-style Sento established about 90 years ago. Their bath area has been remodeled recently and is very clean.


Address: 14-9 Yayoicho, Hakodate-City, Hokkaido

Access: 5 min. walk from Hakodate Dokku-Mae stop on the Hakodate City Tram

Open: 3:00 pm – 9:00 pm (8:00 pm on Sunday), closed on Monday and Friday

Ebisuyu (Ishikawa Prefecture)

A wooden and partially Miyazukuri building from the 1950s. The luxurious tile art of Ebisu-sama, the god of wealth, welcomes guests at the entrance.


Address: 19-45-2 Shoin, Shoinmachi, Suzu-City, Ishikawa

Access: 2 hours and 40 min. by Suzu Limited Express of Hokutetsu Okunoto Bus from JR Kanazawa Station, 2 min. walk from “Shoin” bus stop.

Open: 2:00 pm – 7:00 pm, closed on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday

Miyoshiyu (Gunma Prefecture)

Miyoshiyu in Gunma Prefecture, where you can also enjoy meals

A Retro-looking Sento built in the 1930s. There is also a dining hall where you can enjoy meals and beer.


Address: 1-2-15 Miyoshicho, Kiryu-City, Gunma

Access: 15 min. walk from Kiryu Station on the JR Ryomo Line

Open: Sento 3:30 pm – 10:00 pm, dining hall 11:30 am – 1:30 pm and 4:00 pm – 9:30 pm, closed on Sunday

Funaoka Onsen (Kyoto)

Funaoka Onsen
Check out the sculpture in the changing room of Funaoka Onsen

A grand Sento in a two-story wooden building established in 1923. The sculptures in the changing room representing Tengu, a long-nosed goblin, and the three largest festivals in Kyoto are worth seeing.

Funaoka Onsen

Address: 82 Murasakino-Minami-Funaokacho, Kitaku, Kyoto-City, Kyoto

Access: 5 min. walk from “Senbon Kuramaguchi” bus stop of Kyoto City Bus No.206

Open: 3:00 pm (8:00 am on Sunday and Holiday) – 1:00 am, open every day

Nakanoyu (Okinawa Prefecture)

Nakanoyu, the only hot spring in Okinawa Prefecture

The only Sento in Okinawa Prefecture. It has a unique building design where the changing room and the bath area are in one room. There is an oval bath in the middle of the bath area. Natural hot spring water is used here.


Address: 1 Ageda, Okinawa-City, Okinawa

Access: About 40 min. by Ryukyu Bus No. 90 from Yui Rail Furujima Station, 2 min. walk from “Ageda” bus stop

Open: 3:00 pm – 9:30 pm, closed on Sunday and Thursday

Shinobu Machida

Shinobu Machida

A researcher of popular culture born in Tokyo in 1950, he started collecting product packages and postal stamps when he was a child. He researches often-overlooked popular culture trends from a variety of perspectives and reports his findings in newspapers, magazines, TV and radio. He is especially known as a leading expert in the field of Sento research and has written many books including “Sento Isan” and “Sento no Nazo”.