JAPANESE COMMUNAL BATHS

Sento: Heaven in a tub

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BATHING in Japan holds significance in its culture. The practice of communal baths, known as Sento, dates back centuries where one’s status and wealth were stripped off as he entered the vicinity, thus becoming equals with others in its pool.

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This served as a hotspot of conversation in the olden days. People formed strong bonds with one another and discussed politics, which would have otherwise been difficult outside given their differences in society.

Modern sentos provide all the basic necessities needed to come out squeaky-clean. Men and women have separate units, and visitors have the option of sitting in heated pools outdoors or within tiled rooms.

Sentos are currently dwindling in numbers as almost all modern homes are fitted with deep tubs that gives the user a whole new experience with unlimited privacy.

Bathing is a ritual so deeply engraved in its culture that if you step into any apartment in the country, you’re bound to find a lavish bathtub, among its conservative architecture. Space constraint is no barrier to taking a warm dip every evening.

Gone are the days of heating water over a stove or placing plastic lids to keep the tub water warm. State-of-the-art technology has made its way to every home, where an electronic device connected to the bathtub heats the water to the desired temperature and automatically fills the tub up to its ideal capacity. Once done, it informs its owner that the furo (bath) is ready to be enjoyed.

Communal bathhouse etiquette
In a public setting, there are a number of steps to follow before entering a pool or hot spring. Follow it accordingly and you’re guaranteed a refreshing experience.

At the bathhouse entrance, known as genkan, pay the usage fare and take your set of towels. You may have to take your shoes off at this point and wear the provided slippers.

Head towards the changing room and remove all articles of clothing including jewellery and undergarments, and place them along with your mobile devices and valuables in the lockers. Use the towels to cover your modesty and enter the washing area.

The washing area should have rows of taps and showers. Here, you are expected to scrub yourself clean before stepping into the actual pool. This step also prepares you for the warm bathwater temperature. Take a seat on a low stool and take advantage of the complimentary body soap, shampoo and conditioner. Make sure you wash properly and are free of suds.

Then, you may cover yourself with a small towel and walk towards the pool. Step in slowly. Keep in mind that you are not supposed to dip the towel in the water. Leave it on the edge of the pool. Sit comfortably in the tub and relax.

Once done, step out and wipe yourself with the towel before re-entering the changing room.

Let the sento/onsen experience soak your worries away!

©2015 THE KHALEEJ TIMES (DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES) / DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

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