What are Sento?
Sento, or public bathhouses, have existed in Japan for hundreds of years and refer to communal bathing areas where people can wash themselves, unwind, and connect with each other. Although sento are not as prevalent as they once were—since most modern homes have their own bathing facilities—they still serve as excellent ways to connect with traditional and local Japanese culture. The sense of nakedness removes barriers between people and creates a unifying space where everyone can relax.
Sento designs range from traditional to modern and often display nostalgic murals in the bathing areas. The hot water has health benefits, such as increased blood circulation, reduced stress and fatigue, improved metabolism, and more!
For foreign tourists, communal bathing can be an intimidating practice. However, once you familiarize yourself with sento etiquette and experience the culture firsthand, you will find that it is a healing custom. Review our tips below to ensure your bathing experience goes smoothly. For more detailed instructions, please check out our comprehensive guide to Sento in Japan.
- Remove your shoes at the door
- Pay the facility fee and purchase any necessary products/amenities
- Enter the men’s (男) or women’s (女) section
- Undress completely, and store your belongings
- Wash yourself BEFORE entering the bath
- Dry off before you reenter the changing room
Sento in Shinagawa City
Now that you better understand sento culture, plan your visit with our three recommended sento in Shinagawa City!
Nakanobu Onsen Matsu-no-Yu
Comfort akin to being home
Nakanobu Onsen Matsu-no-Yu, founded in 1948, is located a short two-minute walk from Nakanobu Station on the Tokyu Oimachi Line and stands out as a long-enduring presence on the area’s calm shopping street.
The sento’s gable-style exterior speaks to times past with its eye-catching design and will instantly make you forget that you are in the city. Just past the entrance, the facility has a small Japanese-style garden—the pride of the sento!
Inside, the sento’s spacious bathing area features a beautiful mural of Mt. Fuji. Although the facility epitomizes “good old public bathhouse” vibes with its design, it differentiates itself by using natural hot spring water for its soaking baths and bathing facilities.
Another attraction of Matsu-no-Yu is its open-air bath, which combines natural hot spring water and artificial carbon dioxide to create a “highly carbonated spring.” In the men's section, the rock bath has a pleasing view of the facility’s Japanese-style garden.
Matsu-no-Yu's garden is carefully designed so bathers can enjoy it from a low point of view. If you sit on the open-air bench and view the garden, the atmosphere is guaranteed to lull you into blissful tranquility.
In the women’s section, the bath, which was recently renovated, is made of fragrant hinoki (Japanese cypress). As soon as you enter the open-air space, the crisp scent of hinoki will encircle you.
To fully enjoy the aromatic experience, sit on the edge of the bath in the fresh air. Since the hinoki bath is popular, be sure to share it with others during peak times!
Given its range of baths and use of natural hot spring water, regulars often eagerly line up before the sento opens. Many people love it.
Take a break from your everyday life and enjoy the enchanting atmosphere of Matsu-no-Yu!
Nakanobu Onsen Matsu-no-Yu Address: 6-23-15 Togoshi, Shinagawa City, Tokyo Business hours: 15:00-24:00 (10:00- on Sundays) Closed: Mondays (if Monday is a holiday, the sento closes the next day) URL: https://matsunoyu.com/
A public bath with soothing soft water
Founded in 1953 and located a roughly 10-minute walk from JR Nishi-Oi Station, Peace-Yu is a quiet bathhouse nestled in a residential neighborhood. The sento’s entrance, which descends downward to ground level, is reminiscent of stepping into a bath, and its name, “Peace-Yu,” was given by the previous owner after his experiences with the war.
One of Peace-Yu’s most popular features is its “soft water.” Here, bathers can enjoy four different bathing methods, including a body massaging bath and an electric bath, all within the same bathtub. The soft water, which the sento prides itself on, is smooth and gentle to the touch, meaning that people can soak in the water for long periods of time despite the hot temperature of 42℃ (107.6℉).
After warming your body in the steamy indoor bath, move to the semi-open-air rock bath to enjoy a gentle and refreshing breeze.
The facility is spacious, clean, and comfortable, making you want to stay longer!
After the relaxing bath, finish your sento experience with a drink in the breakroom.
Here, the sento owner leaves out notebooks for guests to provide feedback. As you lounge, flip through the pages and read about everyones’ positive stays. You will see comments such as “I enjoyed the hot water” or simply “Thank you.” If you cannot read Japanese, Google Translate is a helpful tool.
“I enjoy talking with my customers,” Mrs. Sugita, the okami or hostess, said with a smile, “It makes me very happy to see them enjoy the baths before going home. I am proud to run this bathhouse.”
Mrs. Sugita secretly replies to the comments in the notebooks. So be sure to return to the bathhouse again if you want to read her response!
Peace-Yu’s soft water creates a pleasant bathing experience, warming both your mind and body. You will certainly realize peace as you walk home.
Peace-Yu Address: 6-15-16 Nishi-oi, Shinagawa City, Tokyo Business hours: 15:30-24:00 Closed: Mondays URL: https://shinagawa1010.jp/list/peaceyu/
Nishi-Shinagawa Onsen Miyagi-yu
An attractive open-air bath
Nishi-Shinagawa Onsen Miyagi-yu, situated about a five-minute walk from Shimoshinmei Station on the Tokyu Oimachi Line, is a three-story, building-type sento located in a residential area.
One of Miyagi-yu’s most alluring features is its open-air bath on the third floor. Amidst Tokyo’s busy atmosphere, it is quite a luxury to enjoy this sense of openness. Each week, the sento rotates which gender can access the first and third floor public baths—meaning that during one week men can enter the first floor and women can enter the third floor. The next week the access switches.
On the first floor, you can enjoy a spacious white hot water bath, a sleeping bath, a half-body bath with natural hot spring water, and an electric massage bath. Thanks to the diverse bathing options, you can try numerous methods of relaxation on the first and third floors.
Of course, the sento recommends that guests use the open-air bath and unwind in the fresh air. The combination of plants and flowers against the sky creates a blissful experience, which is further enhanced by the seasonal breeze. Open-air bathing truly feels luxurious.
Miyagi-yu shines with ingenuity, most notably its system of switching men’s and women’s baths, so everyone can enjoy the unique qualities. By the time you leave, Miyagi-yu’s charm will have completely captured your heart!
Nishi-Shinagawa Onsen Miyagi-yu Address: 2-18-11 Nishi-Shinagawa, Shinagawa City, Tokyo Business hours: 15:00-24:00 (13:00- on Saturdays and public holidays; 11:00- on Sundays) Closed: Wednesdays URL: http://www.miyagiyu.co.jp
Please note that the above information is subject to change.