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That Time I went to a Japanese Bathhouse… Sento Oedo Onsen Monogatari

odaiba hot spring springs rock bathe public bathhouse theme parkodaiba hot spring springs rock bathe public bathhouse theme parkWhen in Rome, do as the Romans! In Japan, I was curious to experience a public bathhouse, or sento. In my head, I pictured a leisurely soak in solitude, washing away my travel fatigue in a bubbling local hot spring. The reality… was much more communal.

Apparently, sento are a fading tradition harkening back to the times when most Japanese households did not have their own baths. Today, “amusement park” esque bath houses are popular, featuring a full suite of pools, open-air baths and saunas. I visited one such themepark, Oedo Onsen Monogatari, which features six different types of baths, including one in which you can lie down (‘neyu’), a lukewarm bath ideal for summer (‘nuruyu’) and a special bath for dogs (‘Tsunayoshi Bath Tub’).

The bathing room is separated by male and female BUT the entire bath house requires full nudity. (Hence why this post is quite light on the pictures) While I knew this upfront, the experience was still a shock and slightly uncomfortable. Upon entering the bathing pool section of Oedo Onsen Monogatari, I was given a locker and key (notice the cute ocean wave pattern on the lockers), told to explicitly strip and then pre-wash before being allowed to enter the pools. For pointers on Japanese bath etiquette, check out this Lonely Planet post here.

Each pool is designated a certain temperature and there were roughly 10 pools total. I chose to go from hottest to coldest, although to be honest I’m not sure if it should have been the other way around. I was the only non-Japanese person there, but it was still a pleasant experience to soak in, as the water at Oedo Onsen Monogatari is drawn from 1,400 meters underground and is rich in sodium and chlorine ions. The thermal baths were definitely effective in relieving nerve and muscle tension as advertised!

I went to the bathhouse at night, and although it was dark out, the outdoor pools and saunas were open as well, which were fun and lively to try. The onsen also has a Japanese garden bath and rock path. This outdoor section was co-ed (as you went out with a robe on) and I had fun listening to a trio of Japanese guys tip toe across the sharp rocks, in what is supposed to be a relieving foot massage. Yip Yip Owwwwwwwwwwww! Eip Eip Yeoooooooow! They seemed to have a fun, if perverse time, running across the rocks over and over.

The onsen is a popular family destination as well and features a social section with snacks, games, ice cream and soju / alcoholic beverages. After I had my fill of the baths, I tried some peach soju and relaxed among the cushions for a nice nap.

While Oedo Onsen Monogatari might not be a must-see for everyone  I was glad for the experience and might relive the awkward foreigner nude soak again, just to sit in that relaxing thermal water. I’ve been to a bathhouse in Hungary as well, but that one luckily allowed swimsuits. Would you ever visit a public bathhouse? Let me know in the comments below!

Read more: Travel to Japan

 

Want to know what else to do in Tokyo? Check out my full Japan series:

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Tokyo


That Time I Got Naked with Strangers… My Japanese Bathhouse Experience

Tsukiji Fish Market Pt 1 Is the Tuna Auction Worth Visiting?

Tsukiji Fish Market Pt 2 (You Woke Up Late) The Other Stalls

How to Travel Japan Shinkansen & the Japan Rail Pass

Tokyo’s Most Famous Temple: Asakusa and Senso-Ji

Hotel Review Mornings at the Park Hyatt Tokyo

Tokyo Sights: Visiting the Imperial East Gardens

 

Kyoto


A Visit to Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto (Memoirs of a Geisha!)

What Does It Mean to Donate a Torii Gate

Sanjusangendo Temple and the 1,000 Statues of Kannon

 

Japan Eats


Sushi for Breakfast, Really? Sushi Daiwa at Tsukiji

Delicious Bakery Treats Mont Thabor & The Park Hyatt

Is Japan Vegetarian Friendly? Here’s What You Can Expect & Eat More Greens

Dessert Among Diamonds Mikimoto Lounge

How Good is Japanese Tonkatsu

Curious about other funny experiences in Japan? Read more in this post on quirky Japanese things!

 

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JulesApril 29, 2014 - 12:02 pm

I def. would just for the experience! This reminds me so much of Spirited Away :P

Great post!

xoJules
http://forvanityssake.com/

MilanoTimeApril 29, 2014 - 1:38 pm

Great post and lovely pictures babe!
kisses
http://www.milanotime.net

SherApril 30, 2014 - 3:39 pm

Ha, Jules it does kind of look like the movie doesn’t it? :)

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