Japanese-style bathhouse near Mount Fuji

Japanese Sento Culture

In this post, I would like to introduce a Japanese-style bathhouse near Mount Fuji. But before that, let me speak a little about Japanese sento culture. Japanese people love taking a bath, and probably it has something to do with the country’s climate. The summer in Japan is very humid. And we sometimes feel an urge to take a bath in order to escape from the unforgiving weather and soak in a water. In winter, we also feel like dipping in the bath to warm our body when it’s cold. We take a bath not only for hygienic reasons but also for relaxation. We believe that soaking in a deep bathtub and relaxing is a very effective way to remove our day’s fatigue.

Japanese-style communal bathtub (P. Angenieux Paris 15mm f1.3 lens)
Japanese-style communal bath (Photo taken with a P. Angenieux Paris 15mm f1.3 lens)

Hadaka no tsukiai

Japan has had a tradition of sento (or a public bathhouse), which originated in the Edo Period (1603-1867). In those days, most people didn’t have a private bath in their homes, so they would often go to a local sento to bathe. Sento was also a place where they were able to meet neighbors and exchange information. And, out of these circumstances, the term hadaka no tsukiai (裸の付き合い) emerged, which literally means ‘naked relationship’ And people often use the term even today. The true idea of this term is that, once two (or more) people go to a bathhouse together, become completely naked, and share the water in the same bathtub, all the barriers which had existed between them break down (because physically they have nothing to hide anymore) and they can communicate with each other more frankly than before.

A Super-Sento in Fujinomiya City
Kaze-no-Yu Spa Resort in Fujinomiya City.

Emergence of Super Sento

However, the number of sento in Japan is rapidly decreasing nowadays. Probably it is because Japanese people, by and large, have already become affluent enough to have their own bathrooms in their homes. On the contrary, the number of ‘Super Sento’ has been increasing since its first emergence in the 1980s. Super Sento is, to put it simply, a large-scale sento, but it often has many things that a normal sento usually doesn’t have: an outdoor bath (we call it sotoyu or roten-buro), a large parking lot, a restaurant, a sauna and a massage service, among others. Admission fee is slightly higher than a normal sento, usually being between 500 yen and 1,000 yen. Nowadays Super Sento are very popular and they are located along the length and breadth of the Japanese archipelago.

Kaze-no-Yu Spa Resort

Kaze-no-Yu Spa Resort (‘Kaze’ is pronounced ‘car-zei’ and it means “the wind” in Japanese) is located in Kami-ide in Fujinomiya City, Shizuoka Prefecture (in the Chubu Region). At the western foot of Mt. Fuji, this is a place where you can casually experience Japanese sento culture. This establishment is categorized as a Super Sento. If the weather is fine, you can see the majestic view of Mt. Fuji from its parking lot.

Part of Mount Fuji is seen between the clouds (雲間から見える富士山)
The view from the parking lot of Kaze-no-Yu Spa. Part of Mount Fuji is seen between the clouds (P. Angenieux Paris 15mm f1.3).

I visited Kaze-no-Yu Spa in mid-March 2019, my first visit in two years. That day I was very tired after driving through the Asagiri Highlands and visiting many places, but I could entirely rejuvenate myself there, soaking in the outdoor bath and enjoying the scenery. The staff were all very kind and cooperative, and the manager was gracious enough to have given me a permission to take photos inside the facility (with a staff member accompanying me) and put them on this website.

How to Use a Japanese Sento

Here I would like to explain about what we should do at a typical Japanese Super Sento. I am generalizing here, using the example of Kaze-no-Yu Spa, but these are the things that are common to almost all the Super Sento throughout Japan, though some details are different from facility to facility.

how to bathe at a Japanese sento
Left: Shoe locker at the entrance. Right: Entrance to the men’s section.

First, we take off our shoes at the entrance of the facility and put them into a shoe locker. Then we hand over the locker key at the counter and pay the fee. Next, we need to be careful because the entrance to the bathes are separate for men and women. Nowadays konyoku (or mixed bathing) is not so common in Japan. Generally we can see which section we should go to by checking a kanji, or sometimes a hiragana, character written on the noren curtain at each entrance.

Japanese sento bathhouse
Left: Clothes locker. Right: The dressing space.

After entering into the appropriate changing room, we need to undress completely. We put our clothes into the clothes locker and close the door—at this point we are holding only a wash towel. I recommend you bring your own wash towel and bath towel yourself (if possible) because renting these requires an extra fee. Then we insert a 100 yen coin into the small slit on the locker and take the locker key. We put the key around our wrist during bathing so that we won’t lose it.

In a Japanese-style bathhouse, before we go into the tub, we are supposed to go to the ‘wash station’ where a shower, a stool, and toiletries are provided, and wash and rinse our body thoroughly. Then we can soak in the bathtub. We are not supposed to clean ourselves in the tub because we are sharing the same water with other people there. Chatting with local people in the bathtub might be an interesting experience.

Wash station at the Japanese bathhouse
The “washing station,” and the sauna room at the back.

Benefits of the Hot Spring

While some of the Super Sentos are using heated tap water for their bathes, Kaze-no-Yu uses natural spring water. I asked the manager what kind of health benefits we can expect to get from soaking in the water there.
“Well, the soil around Mount Fuji largely consists of basalt rocks (because of a number of past eruptions), so the water around here contains a mineral compound called vanadium pentoxide, which have an effect similar to insulin and lower the blood sugar level.”
“Is it also effective for frozen shoulders?”
“I think so. It is also good for high blood pressure, gout, and constipation.”

Japanese-style outdoor bath
Soaking in the Japanese-style outdoor bath.

I asked her, “Do people from other countries sometimes come here to bathe?”
“Chinese people often come here. A while ago, people from Brazil came here and they wanted to take a bath in swimsuits,” she replied.

A relaxation room of Sento.
Cherry trees are seen from the relaxation room.

Well, I know it could require courage for international travelers to take a Japanese-style bath with other Japanese bathers, mainly due to the cultural difference. But I hope you will remember the words “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” and take the plunge. I also recommend that if you visit a sento for the first time, try to go with Japanese, or hire a Japanese tour guide, so that you know just what to do.

A dining room of a Japanese sento.
The dining room.

Outdoor Bath

What I especially like about Kaze-no-Yu Spa is its sotoyu (outdoor bath) because it commands a nice, natural view. We can enjoy the scenery of the nearby forest and the cherry trees in the garden and blossom in mid-April. From the men’s sotoyu, we can also see the right-side of Mt. Fuji while soaking in the outside bathtub (but to see the entire view of the mountain, we need to get out of the tub and stand beside it, all naked in the coldness). This facility is located at a point of more than 500 meters above sea level and this elevation was originally made out of lava spewed by Mount Fuji in ancient times. So, in a way, it can be said that this spa stands on a part of Mount Fuji.

enjoying soaking in the bath at the foot of Mount Fuji (P. Angenieux Paris 15mmF1.3)
Enjoying scenery while soaking in the outside bathtub.

Other Features

Another point I would like to highlight here is that we can experience ganban-yoku (literally, bedrock bathing) for free. In ganban-yoku, we are usually clad in a robe and lie on a large bedrock (Kaze-no-Yu uses a marble stone) for a considerable amount of time. The far-infrared rays emitted from the rock gradually permeate through our body, and it is believed that it can warm us more thoroughly than the bath water and bring us a lot of health benefits.
Kaze-no-Yu also has a large relaxation room surrounded by cherry trees, and a large karaoke room which requires a 100 yen coin per song.

Various rooms in a Japanese sento.
Left: The Ganban-yoku room. Right: The large karaoke room.

The bathing fee of Kaze-no-Yu is 900 yen in the daytime and 600 yen at night (please note this is the information as of 2019. If you visit there, please check once again).


Getting There (English Map)

Kaze-no-Yu is about 30 minutes by car from JR Fujinomiya Station and about 40 minutes by car from the Shin-Fuji Interchange on the Shin-Tomei Expressway.

Other Photos

Mount Fuji
Mount Fuji as seen from Kaze-no-Yu Spa Resort.

Places Nearby

Kaze-no-Yu Spa Resort is very close to Shiraito Falls, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and relatively close to Lake Tanuki, which is famous for its view of Mt. Fuji. It is also close to the Asagiri Highlands, that offer a lot of tourist attractions, including a paraglider flight experience (at SkyAsagiri School), animal-related activities, like riding a horse, milking a cow or feeding rabbits, a trout fishing facility, a big theme park with birds and flowers (Fuji Kachoen Garden Park), a local farmers market, and a sake brewery, among other things.

Asagiri Highlands (朝霧高原)P. Angenieux Paris 15mm f1.3 lens
Pasture in the Asagiri Highlands.
Shiraito Falls near Mount Fuji (静岡、白糸の滝)
Shiraito Falls (Photo taken with a Summar 5cm f2 lens).
Lake Tanuki in winter (冬の田貫湖)
Lake Tanuki in winter (Distagon *T 25mm f2.8).
attractions in the Asagiri Highlands.
Light: Tandem flight at SkyAsagiri School, with Mount Fuji seen in the background. Right: Entrance to Fuji Kachoen Garden Park (P. Angeniex Paris 15mm f1.3).

Conclusion

If you get tired of enjoying yourself all day around here, I hope you will drop by Kaze-no-Yu Spa, relieve your fatigue, and become a real Japanese!
For a guided tour in this area, please send an e-mail from the Rate/Contact page of this site.

Photographs on this page were, unless otherwise noted,
taken at Kaze-no-Yu Spa Resort, by Koji Ikuma,
with Fujifilm X-T1 equipped with a P. Angenieux Paris 15mm f1.3 lens.


Outbound Links (New Window)

Sky Asagiri Paragrlder School
SkyAsagiri School of canoe and paragliding.
Fuji Kachoen Garden Park
Fuji Kachoen Garden Park.

tea picking near Shimizu, JapanTea Picking in Shimizu

Naumann's ElephantPaleolithic Period in Japan

Related post

  1. tea picking near Shimizu, Japan

    Tea Picking in Shimizu

    Nihondaira Ocha KaikanOn a hot an…

  2. Fujisan Hongu Sengen Tai…

    OverviewFujisan Hongu Sengen Tais…

  3. Mt. Fuji World Heritage …

    OverviewIn June 2013, Mount Fuji,…

  4. Wakutama pond

    Wakutama Pond near Mount…

    OverviewWakutama Pond (or Wakutam…

  5. Sumpu Castle Ruins

    Ruins of Tokugawa’…

    OverviewSumpu Castle (sometimes s…

  6. Miho Beach in the rain

    Miho no Matsubara with M…

    A Scenic SpotMiho no Matsubara, o…

  7. Chiiwa-kyo mountain gorge

    Chiiwa-kyo Mountain Gorg…

    OverviewChiiwa-kyo is located in …

  8. Walkway along the water in Gujo Hachiman

    Gujo Hachiman, a Beautif…

    OverviewHachiman-cho in Gujo City…

Banners

Featured Posts

  1. Jingu Stadium
  2. Sumpu Castle Ruins
  3. Kunozan Toshogu Shrine
  4. tea picking near Shimizu, Japan
  5. Naumann's Elephant
  6. Unfamiliar Japan Tours

Reference Links (New Window)

Link to Vintage Camera Lenses
Link to Tetsu Sawamura official site
Tetsu Sawamura official website (Japanese only).

Outbound Links (New Window)

Shurijo Castle Park
Link to Kusatsu Onsen website
KUSATSU-ACCOMMODATION.JP introduces a large range of accommodations, including Japanese-style inns and large resort hotels, located in the Kusatsu Onsen hot springs area in northern Kanto.
Link to Koshu Valley .com
Insider's guide to the Koshu Vally (Katsunuma) wine region. Katsunuma Town in Yamanashi Prefecture (in the Chubu Region) is known as the birthplace of the Japanese wine industry. And the wine from this area has been attracting growing attention from wine drinkers overseas.
Link to Shimanto City Tourism Association
Shimanto City Tourism Association. Flowing through the western part of Southern Shikoku, the Shimanto River is called 'the last clear river in Japan'. And some of the 'chinka-bashi bridges' across the river are now popular tourist attractions in Shimanto City.
Link to Fukuyama Hiroshima Tourism Guide
FUKUYAMA HIROSHIMA Tourism Guide includes the information about Tomonoura, a small fishing town that flourished in the Edo Period as an important transportation hub.
Link to Shiretoko Shari-cho Tourism Association
Shiretoko Shari-cho Tourist Association. The Shiretoko Peninsula in eastern Hokkaido extends a long distance into the Sea of Okhotsuk. Registered as UNESCO's World Natural Heritage Site in 2005, this area still has a considerable amount of pristine environment.
Shirakami Sanchi Visitor Center. Straddling both Aomori and Akita Prefectures in the Tohoku Region, Shirakami Sanchi is home to the large-scale primitive beech forest. In 1993, this mountainous area was registered as one of Japan's very first UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Link to Itsukushima Shurine website
Itsukushima Shrine official website. A UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, Itsukushima Shrine attracts a lot of tourists and religious worshippers every year. The shrine is located on Miyajima Island which is known as one of the three most scenic places in Japan.
Link to Wakayama Prefecture World Heritage Center
Wakayama Prefecture World Heritage Center. Many religious structures and old paths in the Kii Mountains in southern Kinki was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2004.
Link to Kamikochi website
Kamikochi official website. Situated in the western part of Nagano Prefecture in the Chubu Region, Kamikochi is a scenic highland valley surrounded by the high Hida Mountain range (Northern Japan Alps). The Reverend Walter Weston, a British missionary in the 19th century, contributed much to the preservation of the nature in this area. Now the entire Kamikochi area is protected as part of the Chubu-Sangaku National Park.
Link to Ise Jingu website
ISE JINGU official website. Located in the Kinki Region, Ise Jingu is one of the most important religious establishments in Japan. This Shinto shrine has been revered by successive emperors throughout the history. And now it receives an annual visit from the prime minister of Japan.
Hiraizumi Tourism Association. Located in the southern part of Iwate Prefecture in the Tohoku Region, Hiraizumi was the political center of Japan in the 11th and 12th centuries. The four gardens there, together with their surrounding temples, trees and the mountain, are said to represent the ideal of the "Pure Land Buddhism." These sites were added to the World Cultural Heritage List in 2011.
Link to Amanohashidate Tourism Association
Amanohashidate Tourism Association. Located in northern Kinki, Amano-no-hashidate has been known as one of the three most scenic spots of Japan since long time ago.
Link to Historical Village of Hokkaido website
Historical Village of Hokkaido is a large open-air museum located in Sapporo, Hokkaido. In the compound, there are more than 50 buildings of historical importance, which were relocated and restored.

Banners

ujt-banner3
PAGE TOP