To celebrate 200,000 likes on Facebook, Audi commissioned sentō (public baths) artist Mizuki Tanaka to paint a mural that could be enjoyed while relaxing in the hot water of natural springs. Our photographer went to check it out.
Oct 2, 2014
Japan has been going through something of a hot spring renaissance over the past decade, but at the same time, things are tough for Japan’s other traditional venues for communal bathing, sento, or public bathhouses. Despite a recent uptick in their number of foreign customers, most Japanese have a pretty lukewarm reaction to the prospect of taking a soak with others if the water isn’t heated by geothermal sources.
For the current generation, a hot bath drawn from the tap is no longer a luxury nor something that necessitates leaving home for, and so sento have been shutting down around the country. But rather than close their doors for good, a few have converted their bathing facilities into dining spaces and been reborn as stylishly retro sento cafes.
When coming to Japan, there’s a wealth of things to do and see–even just staying within the Tokyo city limits, you’d be hard pressed to enjoy everything available in a week. On the other hand, if you just stick with the big sightseeing spots, you’ll be both crushed by crowds and probably bored in a few days. This has left a lot of overseas tourists with time–and incentive–to look for new or unique activities.
One of the things apparently gaining popularity is sento, or public bathhouses. While not quite as much fun as hanging out in hot springs in the mountains with monkeys, sento still provide a fun and different activity for anyone just looking to relax. The warm waters are especially welcome after a few days running around Tokyo! But you might want to check this handy guide before you head out for a soak in order to avoid annoying other bathers.
With the winter days getter ever so colder, many Japanese people take refuge in onsen (hot springs) or sento (bath houses). Slipping into a pool of warm water and letting it soak deep into your body is a great way to beat the cold weather.
Even though Japan has thousands of onsen and sento, the experience might get a little tedious after repeated use. So, to take a dip in something totally new, our reporter went to the Szechenyi Thermal Bath in Budapest, Hungary to see how its done on the other side of the world and whether it can compare to Japan’s own incredible offerings.
If you have ever been outside your own country, you most likely have experienced some form of culture shock. In fact just visiting another city or town can make you aware of how things are done differently all over. In Japan, some things are so surprisingly different for foreigners that there is some uniformity in the shock value. Any Japanese with their eyes and ears open can be aware of what is most shocking to many foreigners. It is makes for fascinating conversation, “What is most surprising about Japan to foreigners? I heard…” This riveting subject matter prompts reflection, a moment of feeling good about one’s culture, sprinkled with the ability to and laugh at oneself.
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