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How to Use a Sento or Onsen

Ota City is home to one of the greatest concentration of sento (bathhouses) and natural onsen in Tokyo. To make the most of your experience, here is a handy guide on how to use an onsen:

1. Take off your shoes when entering the bathhouse

In most places, you’ll put them in a locker, either one that locks (don’t forget to take the key!) or an open-sided numbered cubby. Some bathhouses have slippers for guests to use inside the facilities but in most cases, you’ll be in socks or barefoot from here on out.

2. Purchase your tickets and any necessary supplies

Did you bring a towel? Is shampoo available in the shower area? Did you remember your hairbrush? If the answer to any of those questions is no, there’s a good chance the front desk can help you out. Most bathhouses rent or sell at least towels (both large body towels and smaller hand towels), and many have a selection of bath products and amenities on offer as well.

3. Enter the locker room

Nearly all bathhouses in Japan are gender-segregated, so make sure you are entering through the appropriate door! Once inside, claim either a locker or a basket for your possessions. Remove all of your clothes and any accessories (jewellery, watches, etc), as they may be discolored by the sulfur content of the water. If you have valuables, most locker rooms also provide coin lockers. Leave your large towel with all of your clothes, but you are permitted to take a small hand towel into the bath.

4. Enter the bath

When you step into the bath itself, grab a stool and a water bucket and find an open faucet. Before you enter the bath itself, make sure you thoroughly wash and soap your entire body. No soap can be tracked into the tubs so be sure to rinse well! You can carry your small towel with you over to the tubs, but not into the water. Most bathers place it on the side of the tub or fold it up and balance it on their heads.

5. Relax and enjoy!

A dip in an onsen can be both a relaxing and surprisingly social experience. Take your time, make new friends and be sure to savor the soothing effects of the hot springs.

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