The public bathhouse experience is something that may not be for everyone, but the ones in Ota Ward, Tokyo are hoping that foreigners will put it in their “to-do list” when visiting Japan. To help them through the sometimes complicated process, the municipal government and the bathhouse operators have put together a detailed manual and poster for foreign visitors.
Bathhouses, or “sento,” became popular during the Edo period (1603-1868), but are still enjoyed by Japanese citizens today. The illustrated manual aims to help guide foreigners through the process of enjoying their bathhouse experience while the poster shows the typical layout and even a flow chart to show how to use the facility properly. The manual is also written in English, Korean, and both traditional and simplified Chinese. They distributed the materials to 50 sentos in the ward last March to help attract foreign visitors, particularly since the Haneda Airport is located in the area.
Because of the modest success of this type of promotion, the Tokyo Sento Association did the same and provided the materials for all bathhouses in the city just this November. They are also looking at doing this nationwide by next year. Kazuyuki Kondo, the owner of the Hasunuma Onsen says that the foreigners who visited his sento found the manual effective. He also expects more visitors from other countries to try out bathhouses as Haneda Airport adds more slots for international flights and also because of the build-up for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Currently, there are 790 bathhouses in the capital, as per the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. And while a lot have already closed due to ageing owners and rising maintenance costs, they are looking at making the remaining ones a kind of spa facility that is not so expensive but is just as relaxing. Masaru Suzuki, a professor at Obirin University in Tokyo said that this is a “good tourism resource,” and should be widely promoted not just by locals but also foreigners living in Japan and who have tried out the bathhouse experience.
[ via Kyodo News ]
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