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Soaking at a Traditional Kanazawa Bathhouse!

Since olden times, public bathhouses in Japan have not just been for bathing but also for social exchanges. Bathers would chat, get information, and even enjoy such entertainment as comic storytelling. Although it might be a big challenge for you to soak alone at such a local place with limited Japanese proficiency, once you learn the protocol and manners, you’ll be OK!

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As a matter of fact, painting on bathhouse tiles was started by Kanazawa’s Kutaniyaki kiln!

We visited Awazu-yu sento with our friend Selim Coppens to show you how to enjoy a traditional Japanese bathhouse. Awazuyu, which is located near the Saigawa River, is well known for a wonderful image of Mt. Fuji drawn on Kutaniyaki tiles in the washing room. Just so you know, painting 02_MG_6676.jpgon tiles was started by Kanazawa’s own Kutani kiln.
A traditional sento usually has a watcher’s seat called “bandai” placed between the men’s and women’s changing rooms. Do not enter the opposite room please! 02_MG_6700.jpgSay “hello” and pay the bath charges to the watcher in advance!Find a vacant locker (or basket) in the dressing room, and get ready to have nothing on!
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It is said that by calmly relaxing in a bathhouse, the brain's alpha waves are heightened!

02_IMG_3858.jpgOnce in the bathing area, take a small stool and a washbowl from the corner. Place them at an available washing station, which is usually with two faucets - one for hot water and one for cold - and a shower head. The hot water can be scalding, while the cold quite frigid. That’s why you need a washbowl, to mix up the water to an optimal temperature. Rinse your body before taking a dip in the communal tub – it’s good manners! Once rinsed, ease into the pool to warm up those cold bones! Warm yet? Now go back to your washing station and groom yourself! Just don’t attempt to “groom” your clothing as well! Garment washing at a bathhouse is not allowed. Enjoy soaking yourself again and again as long as you want, or try having a conversation with one of the locals! You will understand why Japanese people love soaking in spacious bathtubs with high ceilings eventually. We previously mentioned the connection between a relaxed mental state and the increase in the brain's alpha wave activity. There may be no better way to test out this theory than by enjoying the peaceful tranquility of a spacious bathhouse! It’s said you will be given many alpha waves in a spacious bathhouse.

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Wring out your small bathing towel before going back to the dressing room. And even though the tiny towel is a far cry from the proper bath towel you're used to, try to 02_IMG_3867.jpgwipe away any excess water so as not to drip onto the dressing room floor. Put on your clothes, and dry your hair if you need to! Most bath charges at traditional bathhouses don’t include a fee for using a hair dryer. Go to the Bandai to ask about it! Then buy a cold “milk” or 02_IMG_3879.jpg“coffee-flavored milk” stocked in the refrigerator! Those kinds of beverages were sold at sentos long before canned drinks appeared. It’s a tradition to have one after soaking at a public bathhouse!
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KANJI of gender


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There probably isn’t much hope for English signs at traditional bathhouse in Kanazawa. To avoid an incident, you had better “memorize” at least the two Japanese kanji characters above.

LOCKER or BASKET

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If you notice that there is no available locker space, just use a basket for changing! In the case of potentially having to leave your clothes in a basket, we suggest you not take all your valuables into the bathhouse with you, but rather just some small coins to cover bath charges and a beverage!
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SITTING on a stool

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Washing yourself while sitting on a stool and rinsing with a washbowl is the Japanese way! There probably will be a removable showerhead as well. Please do not use it while standing up so as not to splash the person next to you!

Save WATER

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At a sento bathhouse, the faucets automatically don’t allow you to leave the water running. It will seem inconvenient for you in the beginning, however it’s all for the purpose of conserving water.

Ask about TATTOOS

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As is generally known, those who have a tattoo on their body are not allowed to enter a modern bathhouse, the so-called “super sento.” However, many traditional bathhouses have accepted anyone for bathing since olden times.

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1. You are not allowed to wear clothes or a bathing suit in the bath! Let’s have nothing on! Birthday suits please! Wearing towels in the tub is also not permitted.
2. Rinse off before entering the tub! Nobody likes dirty bathwater! Scrub down before going in!
3. Please do not jump or dive into the tub! You are not allowed to swim in the water either!
4. To all the lovely chics: you had better put you beautiful long hair up! No one wants to see your hair floating like seaweed in the communal bath!
5. Washing your clothes at a bathhouse is not permitted. The Sento is not a Laundromat!

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