My Sento Experience

My one and only Sento experience was in Tokyo. Sento is a community bathhouse in Japan, and it is very common for Japanese folks.

Travellers crave for Onsen, but Sento offers another perspective. As an analogy, Singaporeans enjoy authentic food at Hawker Centre but tourists go to foodcourt and restaurants. To understand the locals better, go to a Sento.

The first question many will ask, what is the difference between Onsen and Sento. The Japanese translations are 温泉 and 銭湯 respectively.

Read on and you might find Sento appealing too.
I could do a Sento everyday, if time permits 🙂

蛇骨湯銭湯

Long time ago, not every home has a shower facility, much less hot water. So Japanese go to bathhouses for a soak and relaxation.

Jakotsuyu 蛇骨湯 is in Asakusa (quite near to Sensoji Temple), there are at least 3 bathhouses within 20 minutes walk from my hostel. The bathhouse which I went was 95% Japanese patrons. I saw some Korean, Taiwanese and even a few Caucasians. I might be the only Singaporean. Non-Japanese might be curious about Sento, just like me.

What are the difference between Onsen and Sento?

Both requires you to go butt naked (no underwear).
You will sit on stools and scrub yourself clean before entering the water.
Both are normally segregated by gender.
Onsen usually use hot spring waters, but sentos normally use hot water.

Those bath scenes in Japan Hour where you have public pools offering panoramic views of Mountains, Sunsets, Sea or Snow are usually Onsens.  Sentos are confined spaces, and we will likely see a huge mural of Mount Fuji 🙂

Onsen is more sensuous (read exclusive), while Sento is like you bathing with 30 others!

No swimming in the pool for both Onsen and Sento 🙂

Sento price

Sento is very popular with Japanese, many will socialise with colleagues or neighbours during their baths, or simply scrub or wash away office fatigues before heading home.

(Photo above)
Did I mention Sento entrance fee is ¥460 (Yen), which is only SGD 5.50!

No footwear

Sento Experience and tips

After selecting your Sento package at the vending machine, keep your shoes and approach the counter. You can rent a towel.

No 1 tip is try to look like a local, and not appear too apprehensive. Japanese will still know you are non-local :p

-Head towards the male section, and you will see guys in various stages of stripping. Just chill and strip, try to ignore the 20 pairs of eyes who might be eyeballing you wahaha!

-Keep your belongings in a locker (free) and keep the key

The first mistake I made was wearing my spectacles into the bath area!
My glasses immediately fog and everyone now know I am virgin Sento user (Silly me)

-(Step 1)Find a corner, sit on the stool and lather yourself with copious amount of shampoo or shower foam. Slowly rinse away the soap with a pail or scoop

-Onsen and Sento culture requires you to sit and wash, standing up would mean splashing water onto others (taboo!)

-Do Google for more Sento and Onsen etiquette

-Why my Sento water is brown in colour? Google told me this is natural mineral water colour, pumped from 1000m below

-Temperature of water can be hot, from 37 degrees to 42 degrees! Dip your toes before immersing whole body, no sulphur smell here.

-There are different pools to enjoy:

I loved the jacuzzi jets, soothing my sore muscle. I did not enjoy the tingling feel from the “electric” pool. YES, they ran a small current through the water eeeks! The electric pulses are supposed to improve our body health circulation, but my body says “No thanks”.

-VR 360 degree tour of interior (photo link)

Image credit Google Map

-Same as Onsen, first timers should step out of hot water after 15 minutes (just a guide). How long we can dip in hot (or cold) water is subjective, listen to your body.

-Photo above, the graphite pools are 17 degrees cooling pools. Alternate between Hot and Cold pools. You will feel your pores open and contract, feels like mini needles prickling but in a nice I-am-so-alive way  (you will be SHIVERING as you step into the cold pool!)

-After getting out of the cold pool, let your body temperature stabilise first. Sit on long stools, face the fake waterfall feature. There are real kois in the pond, close your eyes and soak in the Japan Hour moment 😁
(try to forget you are still naked, no one is seeing )

-Repeat this Hot Cold cycles as many times  as you like 🙂
I was in Jakotsuyu 蛇骨湯 for at least 1 hour, three cycles.

-Once you are done, repeat Step 1 and dry yourself.

-Buy a drink, Meiji milk recommended, and rest for a while. We need to replenish the loss fluids

-Blood circulation is still working hard. Do not return towel yet, as you will still perspire for a good 10 minutes

Mount Fuji in Sento wall

Before you book your Onsen and Sento session

Skin felt detox and so smooth.  But I also felt lethargic as the Sento experience really relaxed my body and soul. I just wanted to enjoy a hot bowl of Ramen (Ippudo is just 2 mins away) and go to sleep straight away.

-Not sure where is the nearest Sento or Onsen, just Google. You will have better luck using “銭湯 or 温泉” instead of “Public bath”.

-Do Google and find whether the Sento or Onsen establishment welcomes tattoo (Some in Japanese society still associate tattoos with Yakuza)

-Just in case, ensure your shortlisted Sento is not Gay 🙂
(There are some outlets which cater for LGBT needs )

-My Sento at Jakotsuyu 蛇骨湯 (GPS 35.712036, 139.792607) is crowded, but I can do this Japan bath everyday!

-You should have some Onsen experience before heading to a Sento. It can be an overwhelming and unnerving experience with so many male (or female) genitals walking around (keep your head and eyes up). For the same reason, I would not recommend sento experience for families.

-Sento is normally split into male and female sections, the huge Mount Fuji center might be the demarcation line. It is popular for couples to shower separately, and meet afterwards.


Be it Onsen or Sento experience, I find both appealing and relaxing. However, Sento might not be suitable for everyone.

I found the Sento experience liberating.
I had wanted to try Sento because I was curious and you know, YOLO factor.

First-timers maybe go in a group to bolster your courage.
Learn how Japanese enjoy public bathhouses culture.
Chit chat with locals and enjoy the majestic Mount Fuji mural.

More photos of Jakotsuyu 蛇骨湯 from Google Map here.
Hope you will enjoy your Japanese Bathhouse Sento experience too 🙂

Sento Experience
My first Sento Experience

This is one of the queer and weird experiences during my last trip to Tokyo. You may read about my Mario Kart (MariCar) experience too.

Read my Tokyo itinerary and see more photos on Instagram #SengkangBabiesJapan

We have some tips on how using Google Map to search for nearby attractions or cafes (link)

Fun Mario Kart Tokyo with Maricar!

If I can recommend only one activity, go for GoKarting with Maricar Tokyo !

It is seriously FUN!
I first came across Maricar Tokyo from Mashable (link), how cool is that!

Some folks dressed in their Mario characters and drifting driving in Metropolis Tokyo! When I saw this YouTube clip, I was flabbergasted.

.. flashbacks of the fabulous scenes from Tokyo Drift  Fast and Furious, drifting through the crazy crowd at Shibuya Crossing! (YouTube link)

Maricar please take my Yen and give me a Gokart!

..nah the first rule of Maricar is NO Drifting (and no throwing of bananas :p) . You may overtake when it is safe, but I already had so much adrenaline driving on Tokyo street. Safety is our No1 priority.

YES, GoKarting at 60kmh on the street is already super COOL !

 

 

Maricar Tokyo Gokarts
Maricar Tokyo Gokarts

 

Take note there are 8 Maricar outlets in Tokyo alone, and there are franchises in Osaka, Yokohama and Okinawa too. Besides Maricar, there are many other vendors who do GoKart on the streets (price, costume and routes differs).

My experience is based on the Shinagawa Outlet #01 (GPS 35.621081, 139.741621 ) , Facebook link  (General Maricar website)

..before we drove off, we already had so much fun dressing up and playing our role, and wefie!

I am Luigi

First thing first, these are the few steps which you need to fulfill before heading down.

Registration and Booking

-Choose your  Maricar Tokyo outlet (out of 8) . Different outlets have different routes

-You can book through their Facebook app too. Maricar Facebook response is fast, they will advise you on the logistics

-Choose you package (1, 2 or 3 hours). Fee starts from 7000 Yen (estimated $85 SGD), please choose minimum 2 hours package

-Go and register your International Driving Permit (IDP, aka License) from AAS ($20, on the spot)

-Beg a Gopro and strap from your friend (or you can rent on the spot). Do not selfie while driving.

On the actual day

– Registration and payment might take up to 15 minutes, choose your costume (another 15 minutes)

** I would recommend you to go 1 hour earlier, cater for train and navigation delays. If you reach early, you can pick your choice costume too

-Safety briefing and GoKart mechanics, your GoKart comes with signal lights, head light, hand brake and horn too

We are ready to roll in Mario Kart style!

-There will be a front and rear guide. They will take photos and Airdrop to you at the end. Ramie was my guide at Shinagawa.

The cool Spyder (bottom right) is for those who prefer to “pillion” or who do not have driving license. Fees apply.

My 2 hours package brought me to Tokyo Tree and Shibuya crossing! Checkout my Maricar video below (Facebook link).

 

Our Maricar Tokyo convoy of crazy characters ! Bowser, Mario, Luigi, Mr Potato, Angel and MonsterInc’s James. I spotted Nemo, Sesame Street and Minions in other convoys too! (more costumes at this hashtag #Maricar )

We will just pose silly at every stop, or wave to the other road users and pedestrians.

Yoshi costume is cute, and Mushroom (Toad) is not available today.

My trusted GoPro 5 session kept the Fun rolling (for extra juice, I would recommend the ultra slim 6700 mAh Ravpower 6700)

Maricar Gokart Tokyo feels exhilarating, you get to see the city from another angle!

Look, Tokyo Tree!

Shibuya crossing!

Hello Mario brother! My kids were mad jealous when they saw my GoKarting video!

Other tips to enjoy MariCar GoKart in Tokyo

 

a. I cannot emphasize enough, go Early. It is not easy for tourists to navigate Toyko subway :p

b. I chose the earliest package at 1000, so I could finish in time for lunch.
Some might recommend a 3 hours package from 4 to 7pm, so you get to play in the day and night too. Shibuya in Neon should be spectacular!

*c. Choose the package which has Shibuya Crossing! (only three outlets) Other outlets might offer circuits with icons Ginza, Skytree,  Ueno, Rainbow Bridge and Odaiba.

d. You need to bring along your Passport, Driving licence, and IDP

e. There is a small pouch in your GoKart for a few loose items (phone, passport, Driving license) Leave everything else in the locker.

f. You can rent a GoPro (and strap) at Maricar

g. Maricar GoKart Tokyo adventures are weather friendly (sun or rain), unless it snows

h. If you are going during Winter (0 to 10 degrees), layer up, I got 6 layers under my Luigi costume. Extra Jackets and Glove are available from Maricar, while stocks last

*i. Make sure you clear your bladder before riding off. It is no fun to peel off the layers in a public loo. Those with 3 hours package definitely need to go to the loo once.

j. For a even better experience? Gather your friends or spouse along!

k. Keep smiling! At every junction, someone will be curious enough to take photo of your Mario Kart gang!

l. Be vigilant and look out for each other. We are driving on the road and GoKarts’ lower profile might be harder to spot . Have Fun but Be Safe!

j. As long as you keep to your lane and do not perform stunts, Maricar Tokyo is relatively safe

Maricar karting in Tokyo is One of the craziest things I have done in my life. YOLO!

-Nintendo had earlier sue Maricar for brand infringements
-We heard Police will enforce laws to mandate Helmet and seat belt in the future.

Meanwhile, participants can still ride and enjoy the street adrenaline!

 

Checkout our kids Mario Kart experience at Permas Jaya (photo above)and Mario Kart Wii . Japan experiences are documented on Instagram hashtag #SengkangBabiesJapan

Read about my Sento experience here