Public baths in Kyoto

August 6, 2018

Yu Sakamoto and Daiki Tabuchi

Today Japanese culture is evaluated from abroad in every aspect. Especially in Kyoto, there are many cultural places to attract visitors from around the world. And Kyoto is also famous for hot springs. But this time I would like to introduce public baths. Because hot springs are already famous among many tourists, so this time we want to reveal the charm and history of public baths and how they are different to hot springs.

What are public baths and hot springs?

Firstly, let’s take a look at the features of public baths and hot springs. As the name suggests, the public bath is just a bath for the public. They began in Kyoto in (794-1185). It is said that they spread throughout Japan with Buddhism. On the other hand, hot springs have natural water. If the water temperature of the hot spring source is 25 degrees or more, and it includes any one of the 19 designated ingredients of the hot spring law in the country, it is regarded as a hot spring.

 

 

 

 

 

The differences between public baths and hot springs

There are two significant differences between hot springs and public baths. First, hot springs use natural water from springs, while public baths do not. Second, public baths have no special rules because the water is not directly from a spring, so it is checked for safety already. In other words, since hot springs use water that is drawn from nature, they are concerned about sanitation, so they must be well managed by the law under the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to ensure that they are safe for customers.

The history of public baths

 People do not know how the tradition of public baths in Japan began. However, according to “Keityoukenbunroku”, a book written about the history of Japan, published in 1614, Ise Yoichi built the first public bath in 1591 on Zenigamebashi, which is in Ibaragi prefecture. People were joyous, and his public bath was very popular. In the 17th century, public baths became popular and could be found in a lot of towns. The bath of this era was a kind of steam bath. Water was put in the bottom of the bathtub. A door was placed in the entrance of the bathroom to prevent the steam from escaping. However, it had one problem. When people opened and closed the door, steam did escape. So, some people solved this problem by making a type of bath called zakuroguchi. They put a bathtub in a small room covered by a wooden plate, then dropped the board low from the entrance ceiling to prevent steam from escaping.


 

 

 

 

 

 

The water bath was developed at the end of the Edo era. This bath was called sueburo. It became popular among ordinary families. In this era, people needed to put hot water in the bathtub, but after that, they developed a way to heat up the bath water by placing a tube of iron under the tub that was connected to a fire. In the Edo era, the public bath was mixed bathing, meaning men and women could bathe together. However, the inside of zakuroguchi was dark because there were no lights, so many problems occurred involving sex. This type of problem was not easily reformed, so between 1841 and 1843 there was a severe crackdown. After that, many public baths changed the rules. They put a wall in the center of the bathtub to separate the genders, and they made separate times for men and women to take a bath. Other public baths became single-sex.

Famous public baths and hot springs in Kyoto

Now, let’s look at some famous public baths and hot springs in Kyoto. First of all, the famous hot spring in Kyoto is Arashiyama Hot Spring. You can see the famous Togetsu Bridge and the beautiful views of Arashiyama from the outdoor hot spring. Also, there are various kinds of hot springs and many sightseeing spots around there. A famous public bath in Kyoto is Nishikiyu which is located very close to the Nishiki market located in the center of Kyoto City. This is very popular among tourists. The building is large, and it’s retro style takes you back in time. In Nishiki, there are also various events, such as live music, rakugo (a short Japanese comedy story), and places to buy kimonos and yukatas cheaply. As well as the public bath, you can enjoy the local charm and lively atmosphere around Nishiki.

Characteristics of Kyoto’s public baths

Currently, there are about 150 public baths in Kyoto. Many places use traditional building methods and are set in kyomachiya, which are traditionally built townhouses. Kyoto’s public baths have three features.

  1. Tile pictures

When you imagine the Japanese public bath, I think you will imagine a Mt.Fuji picture above the tub. Kyoto’s public baths are decorated with various tile pictures. In addition to the main bath, you can also see tile pictures attached to the upper parts of the dressing rooms. These tile artworks are the original style of Kyoto’s public baths.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tile picture of Mt.Fuji

  1. Groundwater

Public baths in Kyoto have a well, so using groundwater is another major feature. Kyoto is blessed with good water.

  1. Noren shop curtains

These shop curtains can be seen hanging at the entrance of shops and public baths in Japan. There are three styles of shop curtains: Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo. The Kyoto style is divided into three, and it has an extended length with a break in the middle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Noren

As you can see, public baths have a long history and original culture, and there are also the differences between public baths and hot springs. However, what they have in common is that they can both relieve tiredness, so both types of bathing places can be a great way to relax and experience a Japanese tradition.

 

https://www.enjoytokyo.jp/phones/life/spot/l_00029317/

http://www.buko-onsen.co.jp

https://matome.naver.jp/m/odai/2137900982607040801/2137903031914045003

https://www.google.co.jp/amp/s/gamp.ameblo.jp/tokuchan2001/entry-12126250306.html?source=images

http://www.1010.or.jp/category/senryu/page/3/

https://www.google.co.jp/amp/s/www.pinterest.de/amp/pin/292663675768558014/?source=images

 

The great sento of Kyoto ~Nishiki-yu~

Ayaka Murai, Hikari Yanai & Daichi Hatakeyama

The great sento of Kyoto ~Nishiki-yu~

 

 

Most people spend their bath time only to take a bath and shower themselves. How do you want to enjoy your bath time? There is one traditional public bath here in the city of Kyoto called Nishiki-yu. A number of people really like to go to the public bath.  So, I would like to introduce about this great public bath.

 

image1 (1)

 

 

Sento is one of the cultures of Japan. Japanese people call the public bath sento. Nishiki-yu has a long history. It opened in 1927. It is in the center of Kyoto citiy’s, Nishiki market. Nishiki market is called the kitchen of Kyoto. The place is famous for tradition and culture in Kyoto. It is near Karasuma station on the Hankyu line. It takes only 5 minutes to walk to the public bath from the station. So, I recommend you take a train and walk to go to this public bath. Nishiki-yu is usually open from 16:00 to 24:00, but every Monday, it is closed.

 

noren When I visited there, there were Japanese shop curtains,noren, which are hung outside the entrance and has the shop’s name written on them. It seems that they change their color to deep blue during Gion-matsuri and New Year holidays. I would like to see the special noren. In addition, the outside is very tasteful. It is a three-storied, wooden building like the traditional Kyoto-style house called Machiya. Nishiki-yu has been featured in various magazines .

 

image2 In side this public bath is quite tasteful too. The bathtub is very hot for the first customer. The temperature is about 43 degrees. The bath is filled right up to the brim and spills over with new bathwater every time. So the bathwater is clear every time.

 

 

 

 

 

Regular customers of this public bath leave their basket at the changing room. It has their name written on the it. This basket is a traditional craft, and the price is about 40,000 yen. You can use the basket in this public bath, but you have to use this basket carefully, because of its high price. In addition, not anyone can make it anymore. However, sento visitors have decreased in Japan recently. So the owner set up some events to draw more guests to this public bath. For example, comic story telling party, music party, second hand book fair, Japanese summer cotton kimono on the spot sale party, and so on. You can also listen to jazz music only in this public bath in Japan. The manager, Mr. Hasegawa, likes music very much. He especially likes jazz music. He has a lot of CDs in his watch stand. As a result of these events, more tourists came to Nishiki-yu. I became popular for young people. Everyone can become friends in this public bath. Sometimes apprentice geisha, Maiko-san, come to this public bath. Maybe if you are lucky, you can meet one.

 

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After taking a bath please go to Nishiki market. You can feel more Kyoto style. If you want to feel Kyoto in your bones and meet people who will be your friends, please go to Nishiki-yu.

 

Saganoyu – A Very Unusual Cafe

by Sayaka Matsuda and Kyoko Kiminami

outside the cafe

We have been looking into Kyoto cafes that foreigners would find interesting. Recently, we discovered a cafe that used to be a public bathhouse, or sento in Japanese. The cafe is called Saganoyu Cafe.

What is a Sento?

A sento is a kind of a public bathhouse in Japan. It is an institution where anyone can pay a small fee and take a bath. Sento have been an important part of Japanese social culture for a very long time. It is commonly said that the bathhouse is the place where children learn social manners. Sento, in one form or another, have existed in Japan for over 800 years.

There are many public bathhouses in Kyoto today the city is home to over thirty universities. That is why Kyoto is called the “student city.” So many students live in dormitories that do not have baths or showers. They support the many public bathhouses that are in Kyoto. Nowadays most Japanese people have baths in their homes, but many local people still love the public bath. Most public baths have many different kinds of baths: hot baths, jet baths, herb baths, electric baths and cold baths. Some even have saunas. So Public baths are also a good place to relax.

We focused on Saganoyu Café, which was once a public bathhouse. It was built about 100 years ago in Arashiyama. Inside, there are still karan (water taps), tairu (tiles), bathtubs and scales. So, not only foreigners but also Japaneses can feel excited by the strange atmosphere of this café.

From the outside, the appearance of the Saganoyu Café is in the style of a typical Japanese coffeehouse. But when we enter, there is a plant with beautiful leaves. The interior design and mood is Western.

Near the entrance is a corner that displays some souvenirs crackers made from miso.

* Miso shio snack (525 yen)

* Miso irigoma snack (525 yen)

* Miso kuroshichimi snack (525 yen)

When we went to the café, we sat by the window near the terrace. At center of the cafe are many tables and seats. All the windows are open, so the room always feels spacious. On the terrace, there was once an open-air bath. In front of the café kitchen, are clothing lockers left from the café’s bathhouse days. So it was charming!inside the cafe

Caution please! Taking photos of the interior and conducting interviews with the staff is prohibited.

The Menu

★ PASTA

* Hot tomato sauce pasta — Eggplant and sausage (950 yen)

* Cream sauce pasta Cod roe and mushroom (950 yen)

* Japanese pasta — Peas and chicken (950 yen)

+ bread (150 yen), salad (300 yen)

+ topping: a raw egg (100 yen)

★ CURRY

* Saganoyu curry (950 yen)

* Cheese curry (1,100 yen)

+ salad (300 yen)

+ topping: cheese (150 yen), a raw egg (100 yen)

★ DESSERT

* Arashiyama castella pudding (600 yen)

* Brownie Kyoto style (cacao 70%) (600 yen)

* Cramble apple tart (600 yen)

+ topping : fresh cream (100 yen), ice cream (150 yen)

★ SEASONAL SWEETS

* Green tea and black syrup parfait (700 yen)

* Green tea in jelly (650 yen)

★ COFFEE

HOT

* Saganoyu original blend coffee (500 yen)

* Cafe au lait — French style (580 yen)

* Cafe chocolate — French style (600 yen)

ICE

* Saganoyu original blend coffee/iced (600 yen)

* Iced cafe latte Saganoyu special (630 yen)

* Iced cafe chocolate — French style (700 yen)

+ topping: fresh cream (100 yen), Ice cream (150 yen)

★ TEA

HOT STANDARD

* Darjeeling Morning Dew (650 yen)

* Dimbula the Earth (650 yen)

* Earl Grey Queen (650 yen)

ICE STANDARD

* Iced Earl Grey tea (600 yen)

HOT ORIGINAL

* Milk tea (650 yen)

* Island coconut milk tea (680 yen)

ICE ORIGINAL

* Iced milk tea (680 yen)

* Iced island coconut milk tea (700 yen)

+ topping: fresh cream (100 yen), ice cream (150 yen)

★ JAPANESE TEA

* Green tea latte hot/ice (650 yen/ 680 yen)

★HERB TEA

* Rief (650 yen)

* Resort fragrance (650 yen)

* Pink fruits (650 yen)

★JUICE

* Squeeze fresh juice (orange or grapefruit) (750 yen)

* Gingerale Dry (500 yen)

* Tea soda (600 yen)

* Framboise squash (680 yen)

+ topping: ice cream (150 yen)

We went at lunchtime, so we ordered Saganoyu curry and tomato sauce pasta from the special lunchtime menu. It tasted great!

saganoyu vurrypasta

How to get to Saganoyu Café

Reaching the café takes 30 seconds by foot from Saga-Arashiyama Station. From the station, go right and you won’t miss it! There is a fishmonger across the street.

Also, Arashiyama is a famous Kyoto tourist spot, so we recommend taking a break from your sightseeing at this cafe