A website providing information about sento public bathhouses in parts of Japan is proving popular despite the decline in such communal baths, which have been a major part of Japanese culture.
Tokyo Sento, launched in 2015, now attracts about 100,000 views a month, mainly from people aged 25-34, according to the site’s operator, and gets comments on its social network services — Facebook and Twitter — from people saying visiting a public bath has become something they now want to do.
Shotaro Hino, 32, president of the website’s operator, was always a fan of public bathhouses and frequented one close to his home in Tokyo.
But when Hino, a web production designer, wanted to check out other bathhouses and searched for them on the internet, he found most sites had not been updated for a long time or provided only addresses or contact information with no images.
“I decided to create a website on my own, which will be full of images and detailed information about public baths so young people feel tempted to visit them,” Hino said.
Public bathhouses were once found everywhere in Japan because many houses did not have bathtubs. But now they do, and bathhouses have been disappearing from the country’s landscape.
The decline is also blamed on a lack of successors to operate the facilities, the aging of equipment, and the popularity of large-scale bathing facilities called “supersento.”
Tokyo Sento offers information on about 100 bathhouses in Tokyo and neighboring Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures as well as Miyagi Prefecture and Okinawa.
Groups of young people started flocking to one bathhouse after the site posted information about it, according to Hino.
Visitors can find pictures of the exterior and interior of each bathhouse in addition to basic data, including address, business hours, holidays and available equipment.
For each bathhouse, Hino or one of the company’s officials, who all love communal baths, write a blog explaining how to get to the facility from the nearest station, what the neighborhood is like, and what to expect at the bathhouse.
The site also introduces products and events related to bathhouses.
In April, the company took over an old sento called Kirakuyu in Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture, which is believed to have been built before the 1950s.
Hino said it plans to add more bathhouses in other regions to the website as well.
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