National

'Sento' bathing tips now offered in three languages in tourism push

Kyodo

An association of operators of Tokyo’s sento public baths is now offering etiquette tips in three foreign languages — English, Chinese and Korean — as part of a push to better educate tourists.

The number of foreign tourists to Japan is expected to increase ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but public bath operators say often many visitors are not familiar with basic sento manners.

According to the Tokyo Sento Association, issues include foreign tourists bathing with their underwear on or not taking off their shoes at the entrance to a bath.

Its website offered tips on what foreign tourists should or should not do.

“Wash your body before you go into a bathtub,” reads one explanation with an illustration, while another said, “Don’t put your towel inside the bathtub.”

It also explains how public baths started in the sixth century and spread nationwide in the Edo Period (1603-1868).

Tourists can also search for nearby public baths on their smartphones and tablets using a GPS, though this function is offered only in Japanese with an English version under consideration.

There were about 2,700 public baths in Tokyo in 1968, but the number has decreased to below 700.

“We want to stimulate the industry by luring many foreign tourists,” said Joichi Kamichi, an official at Tokyo Sento Association.

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