A Tradition of Self Care

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Continuing on with ways of keeping myself grounded, another is to regularly practice self care. One method of self care that has started to become quite routine for me: going to Japanese public baths, which are called Sentō (銭湯). 

流行ねこの温泉, 1881 Utagawa Kunitoshi

Sentōs are a large part of traditional and contemporary Japanese culture. Dating back to the Nara period around 710, sentō and onsen culture are customary to Japanese life. Beginning as a religious ritual, containing on as an important community gathering spot, and ending off with a particular historical increase post-war when many houses were rebuilt but did not have baths in them, the prevalence of these bath houses increased. Sentōs are still ubiquitous and can be found everywhere in Osaka, some still focus on traditional factors, but many of them are more modernized now. The more modernized ones now frequently have several baths, both indoor and outdoor, and sauna rooms. After the bath too, people can spend time in the food courts, and some will have lounge areas with libraries and arcades too. 

The vibe of sentōs are similar to spas in America, however going to the sentō is so much more commonplace, which I think is a beautiful thing. It’s common for mothers to bring their children to bathe, and for friends to go together. It really becomes a bonding experience of sorts; the act of washing yourself while also letting yourself unwind, and relax as a regular thing. I appreciate how sentōs aren’t considered a huge luxury, (typically cost around JP¥800=$8) yet the act itself feels sooo luxurious. Luxuries can come with a ounce of guilt and weight on your wallet, but the sentō is made with routine in mind. 

So upon entering the bath house, you sit in rows of faucets and shower heads to first wash off. It is good etiquette to wash yourself before going into the bath. People often bring their own shampoo and stuff. After rising off, you move on to the large communal baths to soak. The feeling of first entering into the bath is unlike any other lol. 

I feel like my self care in America is rarely thought of with activities like showering in mind. But I think the sentō goes beyond the cleanliness, and is more about giving yourself the time of out your week to truly relax. I often go to the sentō by myself and its becomes a great time of reflection and introversion. After being here for about two months now, I’ve come to appreciate greatly the times in which I get to spend time with myself and it becomes incredibly grounding for me. I think being alone is a luxury that I didn’t get to have as much of when in the US at my college. Its so important to give yourself a break, to treat yourself, to let yourself just be alone for a few hours. 

Bucket list item: go to a capybara onsen!!