As night falls on the streets of Kyoto, the gentle croaking of frogs from the river fills the air, guiding you towards a hidden oasis of relaxation. Close to Kyoto Station lies Umeyu Sento, a traditional Japanese public bathhouse where the serene sounds of nature blend seamlessly with the tranquility within.

The bathing experience

Upon arriving at Umeyu Sento, the first thing you notice is the calm, welcoming atmosphere. The sento is also tattoo-friendly, making it inclusive and inviting for all guests. You leave your shoes at the entrance, and 490 yen (about $3.12 USD) grants you access to this sanctuary. If you need a towel, you can rent one for just 50 yen (about 31 cents USD).  

The ritual begins with cleaning off any makeup and tying up your hair. Afterward, you can cleanse yourself in one of the nine seated showers. Each shower has shampoo, conditioner, body wash and facial oil, ensuring you are completely clean before entering the baths.

The women’s section also provides hair dryers, hair ties and various skincare products. Lockers are available to store your belongings securely, and you can keep a wristband with you throughout your stay for added convenience. 

Once you are ready, you can explore the variety of baths Umeyu Sento offers:

  1. Hot Bath: This steamy, soothing bath is perfect for relaxing tired muscles. The heat can be intense for first-timers, but it’s incredibly invigorating once you acclimate.
  2. Cold Bath: This bath provides a stark contrast to the hot bath, offering a bracing experience that leaves you feeling rejuvenated.
  3. Hot Bubble Bath: Equipped with jets, this hot bath provides a gentle massage, enhancing the relaxation experience and soothing sore muscles.
  4. Electric Baths: These unique baths provide a mild electric current that pulses through your body, offering a novel and relaxing sensation. One of the electric baths is infused with mango essence, adding an aromatic touch to your experience.

Please note that taking pictures of the baths is not allowed. However, you can find some photos on Umeyu Sento’s website.

For those looking for an even more intense relaxation session, the sento includes a sauna. Here, you can unwind to the sound of relaxing music. The sento features handmade newspapers crafted by the workers, offering an entertaining read while you relax. These newspapers, updated monthly, add a unique touch to the atmosphere, keeping guests informed and amused.

The history of sento

The tradition of sento dates back to the Nara period (710-784). Originally established as part of Buddhist temples to promote cleanliness and spiritual purity, these communal baths became popular among the general populace. Sento culture provides a place for people to not only cleanse themselves but also to socialize and build community ties while maintaining traditions.

Yutonami Sha, the company behind Umeyu Sento, upholds the mission of “Don’t erase Japan’s public baths,” as stated on their website. Committed to preserving this cultural heritage, Yutonami Sha operates nine public baths, ensuring that the tradition remains alive and accessible. Their dedication to maintaining and revitalizing these spaces is a testament to the enduring importance of sento in Japanese society.


  • Wash thoroughly before entering any bath.
  • Long hair must be tied up to keep it out of the water.
  • Silence is encouraged to maintain a tranquil atmosphere.
  • Don’t dive into the bathtub.
  • No food beyond the reception. 
  • Wearing a swimsuit is not allowed.
  • No towels inside the bathtub.
  • Use the mat provided when entering the sauna and clean it afterward.

One unique aspect of Umeyu Sento is the design of the partition between the men’s and women’s baths. While not completely enclosed, this partial barrier allows sounds to carry between the two sections, adding to the communal and open feel of the space.

A cultural oasis

Umeyu Sento is more than just a bathhouse; it’s a cultural experience. Stepping into the sento, you’re not just immersing yourself in hot water but in centuries of tradition. The sensor’s design, the etiquette observed by its patrons and the overall ambiance provides a window into a way of life that values cleanliness, relaxation and community.

As a Colombian visitor, this experience was particularly gratifying. The tranquility and the normalized approach to diverse body types create an environment where you feel comfortable and accepted, making the experience not only relaxing but also liberating. The presence of both locals and foreigners adds to the unique cultural tapestry of the experience.

Umeyu Sento offers an authentic and soothing retreat. The blend of hot and cold baths, the unique electric baths and the serene sauna all contribute to a restorative experience that leaves you refreshed and rejuvenated.

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