Since long before foreign tourists were freely coming in and out of Japan, tattoos have been traditionally been seen as a mark of the more nefarious elements in Japanese society. While in many ways Japan is continuously adapting to the ways of the western world, the traditional views on tattoos as something “bad” is still very prevalent. Thus, it’s not very surprising that so many onsen (hot springs) and “sento” (bath houses) still forbid the entrance of those with tattoos.
However, don’t give up hope yet, tattoo lovers! With the continued influence of western culture on Japan, the number of Japanese who casually sport ink has been increasing recently. In order to cater to the increasing potential customers with tattoos, more and more onsen and sento have been popping up around Japan. We want all of our readers to enjoy all of the wonders of Japanese onsen so we’ve prepared a small list of them that are worth going to that allow those with tattoos to enter.
Natural Hot Spring Hisamatsuyu (Sakuradai / Ikebukuro)
Hisamatsuyu is located a few minute walk from Sakuradai Station which is 10 minutes away from Ikebukuro Station. It is an example of Japan’s new-age “super sento” and their theme is “Light and Wind: a bathhouse in the midst of a thicket”! You’ll notice just how contemporary Hisamatsuyu is the second you step your bare feet onto their heated floor in the entrance!
The sento has actually been around since 1956, but it has repeatedly been remodeled to keep up with the times. The most impressive thing about this place though, is the use of projection mapping in the bath areas to create a truly modern, stylish, and relaxing atmosphere. There are four different artistic nature pieces projected onto the ceilings, each lasting about 15 minutes each! The shows were put together by Atelier Omoya, the same artist group who designed the famous “Water Canvas” at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, France.
With the most recent remodeling, Hisamatsuyu‘s main bath is now filled with high-quality sodium water from 1,500 meters underground for your pleasure.
Talk about natural spring water! Other than the main bath, there are jacuzzi style baths and electric baths as well. The electric baths are not the usual kind that simply make your skin tingle, but actually rotate between three patterns that rub, beat, and squeeze your body to knead out those tight muscles! For only 460 yen, you can not only relax your body in healing hot baths, but you can sit back and enjoy the creations of well-known artists while you're at it! From how aesthetic and snug Hisamatsuyu is, it's super popular and there are about 900 visitors on weekends!
Natural Hot Spring Hisamatsuyu天然温泉 久松湯
- Address 4-32-15 Sakuradai, Nerima, Tokyo 1760002, Japan
- Phone Number 03-3991-5092
11:00 am to 11:00 pm
Adults (ages 12 and up) 460 yen, Elementary School Students 180 yen, Pre-school Children 80 yen
Jakotsuyu prides itself on the quality of its mineral spring water. To enter the baths, you will have to buy a ticket, but no worries, because the ticket machines here are available in four languages including English. Being near one of the more popular tourist attractions in Tokyo, the regular customers tend to be quite helpful to foreign tourists so this place is good for those of you traveling alone who aren't quite sure how these places work. For those of you considering visiting Tokyo for a lengthy amount of time, there is also a laundromat nearby so it might be a good idea to find a place to stay nearby.
All baths in Jakotsuyu use natural spring water from underground. Their black onsen is unlike the usual volcanic onsen. Components of grass and leaves have dissolved into the water of this onsen during the Paleozoic era so the spring water is packed with various minerals and ions for a truly healthy bath time. Another characteristic of the black onsen is that your body remains warm well after you leave the bath so you don’t have to worry about getting the chills like you sometimes do after warm baths.
- Address 1-11-11 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo, 111-0032, Japan
- Phone Number 03-3841-8645
1:00 pm to 12:00 am
Adults (ages 12 and over) 460 yen, Elementary School Students 180 yen, Pre-school Children 80 yen (shampoo, conditioner, and body soap available for free)
Empty handed set:
140 yen (rental towel not included) Face towel, razor, toothbrush, and small handbag (Shampoo/Conditioner and body soap available inside the facility)
200 yen (must first purchase regular entrance fee separately)
Mannenyu (Shin-Okubo / Shinjuku)
A hidden gem in the middle of a big city, Mannenyu is truly traditional sento, as it has been around since 1961! After being in business for over 50 years, it has recently been remodeled in August of 2016 to have more of a modern feel.
Mannnenyu’s iconic signboard at the entrance got a makeover and the inside has been refurbished as well. The decor of the baths has a brownish color theme and does well to retain the classic ambiance of the place while also appealing to those with contemporary tastes.
Whereas most sento tend to have pictures of Mt. Fuji, Mannenyu’s walls are decked out with crane mosaics. All baths in this onsen have soft water so they’re easy on the skin. The clear water bath is set rather cool at 40 degrees Celsius so it’s safe for visitors wanting to bring their children along. There is also a 45-degree, pure white “silk bath,” which is said to reach deep into even your tiniest of pores to leave your skin feeling silky smooth. Additionally, there are massage baths including an electric bath that will make your body tingle as you soak.
Just 5 minutes from Shin-Okubo Station in the middle of Tokyo’s exciting and hectic Korea town, walking through Mannnenyu’s gates is like walking into a completely different world. With a fancy new signboard out front, cleaner baths, brighter lighting, and an all-around classic atmosphere, you’re likely to lose track of time in this relaxing atmosphere.
- Address 1-15-17 Okubo, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 1690072, Japan
- Phone Number 03-3200-4734
3:00 pm to 12:00 am
Adults (Junior high and older) 460 yen, Children (Elementary) 180 yen, Pre-school children 80 yen
Takaban-no-Yu (Gakugei Daigaku / Shibuya)
Takaban-no-Yu is located just 10 minute walk from Gakugei Daigaku Station which is a few stops away from Shibuya Station. Takaban-no-Yu has two regular baths, six jacuzzi-type baths, a cold bath, and two different saunas that you can rest your tired body in. Of the two regular baths, one has an open roof so you can enjoy the nature surrounding you while you soak in their warm.
The jets in the jacuzzi-type baths are quite strong, perfect for relaxing your sore muscles or shoulders. The saunas include a dry sauna which utilizes its high temperature (90-100℃) to help you sweat your stress away as well as a salt sauna that is good for cleaning out your pores and promoting beautiful skin. These do cost an extra 420 yen, but they are well worth it!
With the various types of baths, Takaban-no-Yu has to offer, you are sure to reach a heightened level of relaxation. It’s easy to lose track of time with all of the different ways to relax in Takaban-no-Yu so you might want to clear your schedule before entering!
- Address 2-2-1 Takaban, Meguro, Tokyo 1520004, Japan
Gakugei Daigaku Station
- Phone Number 03-3713-1005
Weekday business hours:
3:00 pm to 12:30 am
Weekend business hours:
2:00 pm to 12:30 am (* front desk closes at midnight)
Fridays, Third Thursday
Adults 460 yen, Children 180 yen, Infants 80 yen
Bath set (large /small towel, shampoo, body soap):
Before you enter an onsen for the first time, there are a few rules you should be aware of in order to respect the culture. First of all, as this is a bath and not a pool, you must take ALL clothing off and leave it in the changing area. No need to be shy. After you've changed and entered the bath area, you want to find the washing area to clean yourself off before entering the baths. In Japan, baths are for soaking, not washing. Here, there’s usually a place with a small stool to sit on in front of a shower head, a mirror, shampoo, etc. Once you've completely rinsed yourself off, you may enter the bath of your choosing. Although many people bring a small face towel with them for the washing process, remember to never bring anything but your own body into the baths: the face towel can be set beside the bath next to you or placed on your head. All that's left to do now is sit back, relax, and let the soothing water wash your problems and worries away!
Why is Onsen So Cool?
Onsens in general, are known to have a lot of positive effects on the body. For example, the heat of the water can help the body circulate blood flow as well as increase metabolism. That’s right, you can add a regular visit to the local onsen to your current diet. The buoyancy factor of the water can also be a really important relaxing factor for your body. If the water level is up to your neck, your body becomes roughly 10 times lighter, not only releasing your body from the toll gravity can take on it, but can also allow your brain to more easily enter a relaxed state. Not to mention that at the right level, the water pressure can be beneficial to your health as well. The pressure can stimulate your organs, giving them a natural massage from within your body. There are even certain onsen with specific water chemistry that can have a therapeutic effect when bathing in them. The list of positive effects goes on and on which is no wonder why Japanese love them so much!
Although everyone has their own individual thoughts and opinions on onsen, for the majority of Japanese people, onsen and sento are not simply a place to wash your body. They are a place to shed your clothes and everything that defines your status in the world and ties you down to “your place” in society. An onsen is a place to truly communicate without worrying about the day to day hierarchy that is especially prevalent in Japan. Maybe for some people nowadays, it’s even a place ask about the story behind the tattoo you didn’t know your friend or boss had hiding under his or her clothes. When you visit your next onsen, remember to wash away more than just the dirt from your travels.
Now that you have learned of several different types of onsen in the Tokyo area, there is now nothing holding you back from trying out this amazing part of Japanese culture. This list is only a small fraction of the many tattoo-friendly onsen and sento around Tokyo and is by no means a “top 5” list. There are plenty of different styles and locations that are available to you so get out there and find the one that’s right for you!
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