Wintertime is one of the best times to travel in Japan! It is nice – the air is fresh, you get to layer up in your most stylish jacket or coat (or pick a new one up at Uniqlo, peruse the many illuminations going around the city, and if you are lucky, and you might even catch a glimpse of snow! But once in a while, we all wish to be warm indoors away from the freezing cold winds that blow relentlessly through Tokyo’s tall buildings. Sometimes, a warm drink isn’t quite enough to warm that chill in your bones. That’s when we recommend you take a trip to a sento!
Wait, what’s a sento and how is it different from an onsen? A sento is an artificially created large communal bath that uses hot water, whereas onsen uses water from a natural source. Some sentos use just normal water while others may choose to add natural ingredients with therapeutic benefits to differentiate themselves. Either way, it’s a great way to experience a part of Japanese culture! Let’s dive right into it.
Kotobukiyu is a bathhouse known for doing collaborations, having special art murals in place of the typical Mount Fuji one sometimes. What really sets them apart is that they run a little known hour long yoga class INSIDE the onsen! Limited only to 4 people, reservations are required and they are currently not taking in new participants. But that may change in future so keep checking back for the chance to do yoga in an unexpected place. The sento itself is worth taking a visit too with its facility options – its specialty is bathwater infused with medicinal minerals and you can also enjoy the sauna and an open-air pool.
Adults: 520 yen, Child (Under 12): 200 yen, Infant: 100 yen Towel sets are available for 100yen, and sauna use is an additional 350 yen.
Saitoyu has a few pools for you to dip in, but the highlight here are the carbonated baths – the sparkling water in them creates a caressing effect that also improves circulation and that the warmth you gain from the bath stays with your much longer after you leave as compared to exiting a normal bath. One of their special carbonated baths is an open-air one with milky water. The secret behind its milkiness is an in-built device that generates microscopic bubbles that dissolve into the water – it’s said to be powerful enough in removing dirt from pores. And after your soak, you can enjoy relax and enjoy draft beer at cheap prices too!
Adults: 520 yen, Child/Teen: 200 - 300yen, Infant: Free Towel sets are available for 400 yen.
This public bath with a sauna will certainly catch your eye with its modern concrete exterior. A must-visit for minimalism and architecture lovers, it features 3 indoor pools and 1 outdoors, each with a different temperature so you can spend time discovering the one that works best for you. More than just a sento, it has lodging options and an in-house restaurant that serves curry, hamburgers, and craft beer. The bathhouse has been standing since 1932 and was newly renovated in 2020. Tickets are available for purchase via a vending machine at the entrance.
Adults: 520 yen, Child/Teen: 200-420 yen, Infant: 100 yen Sauna Fee: 330 yen - 580 yen Towel sets are available for a fee upon inquiry.
If you’re someone who loves art and want something to appreciate while in the sento, you’ll love the art murals in Fukunoyu. The interior lighting creates a warm and cozy atmosphere. They switch the location of the men’s and women’s baths weekly, giving you motivation to go back more than once to experience both sides!
Adults: 470 yen, Child/Teen: 180 yen, Infant: 80 yen Towel Rental: 100 yen
Which one of the above appeals to you the most? If you’re staying in one of our apartment-hotels on the upper east side of Tokyo, you’ll probably be able to try them all! The east is also a lesser known area with plenty of hidden gems, older streets with charm, and overall is a lot quieter than the west side where the lively areas of Shibuya and Shinjuku are. If you would like to stray away from the touristy areas, consider dropping by this side and taking a soak in one of the bathhouses! Stay warm out there!
Cover Photo: Soyoung Han