Tokyo: Tattoo-Friendly Sento and Onsen
As tame as your ‘Live Laugh Love’ tattoo may be at home, in the Land of the Rising Sun, skin ink has traditionally been associated with the Japanese gangsters known as the Yakuza. But obviously not everyone with tatts is into organised crime, and the government is starting to chill out about it too in the interests of social progress and tourism.
However, you will still find many sento (public bathhouses) and onsen (natural hot springs) that won’t let you bathe in their fiery warmths if you’re tattooed. Though you can cover up with band-aids and try to make a pass, it’s best for everyone involved if you just check out these tattoo-friendly joints instead (and less gross for the other bathers, who probably don’t want to share bathwater with someone who looks like they’re covered in open wounds).
Entry for all sits at around 460 yen thanks to the Tokyo Sento Association (yes, such a thing exists), with a bit extra for a towel and shampoo if you forget yours.
- Togoshi Ginza Onsen in Shinagawa-ku
- Here you’ll find a blend of old and new elements, and the baths on offer vary between open-air, cold-water, herbal and even one with ultrasonic waves, whatever they may be. The alkaline thermal water is supposed to be super good for your skin too.
- Takaban-no-Yu in Gakugei Daigaku
- Takaban-no-Yu has loads of baths, including a cold (read: freezing) one and an open-air bath. There’s also a sauna. Gakugei Daigaku is pretty close to Shibuya if you’re staying in the thick of it,
- Hisamatsu-Yu in Nerima
- This joint has a super slick aesthetic, and all the mod-cons. Even the floor is heated! Here you’ll find natural spring sodium water coming from deep beneath the ground, and in addition to the main bath, a few jacuzzi-style and electric massage baths.
- Kugahara-Yu in Ota
- Like many sento in Tokyo, Kugahara-Yu boasts a big mosaic of Mt Fuji. There’s an outside bath with black onsen water, amongst others, and even a carbonated bath you can watch TV from. The sauna is free too, which is cool.
- Asahi-Yu in Sendagi
- Here, there are three baths, all steaming hot. One is herbal and leaves you smelling delicious; its contents vary between things like rosemary and echinacea depending on the day. There are also some beautiful mosaic backdrops to gaze at while you soak your bones.
- Konparu-Yu in Ginza
- Konparu-Yu has been open since 1863, and is super quaint and traditional, from the tiled koi murals to the bandai platform. It’s tiny, and there are only two baths, but the historic feel more than makes up for it.
- Jakotsu-Yu in Asakusa
- This place is an onsen, not a sento, meaning the water is a tad brown, but it’s way more legit. Again they’ve gone for the Mt Fuji decor idea, but to be fair they may have been first, seeing as they’ve been around since the Edo period. The amenities are quite modern considering, however: there are some jet baths and even a bath that kind of electrocutes you…
Gemma Clarke is the editor-in-chief of Global Hobo. She spends her time contracting tinea in foreign countries, taking afternoon naps in her van and drinking red wine through a (bamboo) straw.