The Sento 銭湯, or public bathhouse has been a fixture in Japanese society for centuries. The sento was both a necessity, for many homes lacked a private bath, and a place for social interaction with the intimacy of sharing a bath with members of your community forming a sort of unspoken bond. Since the 1970’s, most homes now have a private bath, so the sento has become increasingly rare, though communal use of onsen (hot springs) serves a similar purpose in building community. Older neighborhoods in the city often have at least one sento which you can experience for a small fee (as long as you don’t have tatoos!).
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I loved going to the sento when I lived in Japan. You can read about my experiences in Japan here: https://pastdepartures.wordpress.com/