Sinking into the almost too-hot bath, aches melting from my desk-weary muscles, I nodded politely to the women opposite. Half-familiar from the neighbourhood, we agreed that the waters were surprisingly hot, all the while submerging our bare shoulders just a little deeper. Steam-filled and tranquil, public baths in Japan have been a haven from the stresses of daily life for more than 1, years. While the natural hot springs known as onsen are familiar worldwide, and can be private or public, there are also the lesser-known sento — public baths relying on regular, filtered water. Found in almost every neighbourhood and requiring complete nudity, both types of communal bathhouses have a set of strict rules on washing etiquette before entering the pristine, soap-free waters and offer a space for friends, families and even co-workers to relax and connect. These days, nearly every home in Japan has a deep-set tub perfect for a private soak and the popularity of a public dip is waning , but nowhere near as much as you might expect. View image of Many sento are adorned with nature scenes on the walls Credit: Credit: Stephanie Crohin. Onsen, which source mineral-rich spring water heated by natural volcanic activity, are the luxurious option for bathers in Japan.
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Fudo no Yu was a community bath, meaning anyone was free to use it, and until last year it was left unsupervised. It was also one of a dwindling number of onsen in the Kanto region that allow traditional mixed bathing, known in Japanese as konyoku. Although Fudo no Yu ended up reopening a couple of months later, any opportunity for licentiousness has been strictly curtailed. The problems seen in Shiobara fit in with a wider trend that has seen a precipitous decline in the number of konyoku around Japan.
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For many Westerners, though, the fact that these traditions involve being naked with strangers is awkward at best, even though men and women bathe separately. I suggested a different town that had an attraction I wanted to see, and thought I was off the hook. I should have done my research better: That town was famous for its onsen as well. Two terms are basic when talking about Japanese baths: onsen and sento. An onsen has natural hot spring water.
Dear visitor, if you know the answer to this question, please post it. Thank you! Do males have to be naked in mixed onsens? I heard you have to go naked in the mixed onsen if you're male, is this true? Thank you, Jack by Jack guest. Re: Do males have to be naked in mixed onsens? The ones where you see women wrapped around in big bath towels as they soak in the water is just for decency on TV. While walking around people likely hold their small towel in front of them.