Apart from having technological advancements, deliciously fresh cuisine and shopping destinations that draw in crowds from all over the world, Japan's bathing culture is also gaining popularity (and curiosity) among tourists. As a country built on a string of volcanoes, hot springs (onsen) are widely-available that allow anyone to bathe in natural volcanic spring water. In addition, the Japanese also love to bathe in public bathhouses (sentō) which run on heated water.
Whether you'd like to go to an onsen or sentō to try this old-age Japanese practice, know that all these public hot tubs require everyone NOT to wear swimsuits. You have to get naked before you dip into the waters - just like everyone else there. If you're contemplating whether it's worth the try (you have to bare it all after all), here are 4 reasons why you should not miss it.
1. Benefits of A Hot Bath Are Numerous
In most ancient cultures, hot baths are often associated with healing injuries and pain. Taking a good soak in a hot bath improves blood circulation, reduces headaches, and even gets rid of flu symptoms. Emotionally-speaking, hot baths keep anxiety away and help release happy hormones called endorphins -- therefore, making you feel better after taking a dip in the hot waters. For the Japanese, taking hot baths is also a way of purification from spiritual grimes.
2. There's More to Bathing
When visiting public bathhouses, you'll be surprised to find other activities you can do aside from bathing. Many baths also offer saunas, rest areas, massage chairs, jacuzzi and healing zones, and even overnight accommodations. It's also a great chance for you to meet fellow tourists.
In Japan culture, bathing is seen differently from showering. Showering is for washing yourself whereas bathing is for relaxation. Which is why, bathhouses require you to take a shower and wash your entire body before bathing in the hot waters.
3. It Ranges from Affordable to Extravagant
Because there are numerous public bathhouses in the area, you may find them in the wild (often informal and free), in lodgings, and in the most extravagant settings -- where you can get private baths with a view. Most bathhouses also provide everything you need such as shampoos, soaps, and towels. Of course, depending on the services and facilities they offer, various price ranges apply. Find one that suits your budget!
4. It's the Perfect Way to End Your Day
Admit it. There's nothing more relaxing than soaking in warm water after a long day of adventure and activities in the city. It relaxes one's tired muscles and also gets rid one of stress. The Japanese also believe that engaging in public baths is similar to mindfulness. It doesn't only cleanse your body but also your mind as well -- giving you the chance to think profoundly or meditate.
Apart from public bathing, there's a ton of activities that one should try when in Tokyo such as taking free walking tours! Before you relax in the hot waters, enjoy a walking tour around the city, visit the most exciting destinations, and hear first-hand stories (and secrets) from the locals. You can even ask your tour guide to help you find the best public bathhouse for you!
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