Japan’s ‘sento’ bathhouses are vanishing

Japan’s ‘sento’ bathhouses are vanishing

There’s a neighbourhood bathhouse I like to frequent when I visit my wife’s family in Osaka.

These bathhouses, once ubiquitous in Japan, are known as sento (銭湯) and are generally more utilitarian than the hot spring baths, or onsen (温泉), that command a much higher entrance fee and enjoy a better reputation.

After a good scrub and soak I like to talk to the manager and enjoy a cool drink.

During one such chat he told me that in his fifteen or so years in the business he’s seen the number of bathhouses in the local ward drop by more than half.

My journalistic sensibilities were tickled and I asked him if he’d let me come into the sento and follow him around for a day and interview him about his business.

He was keen so I went in soon after with all my camera gear and shot everything from the preparation and opening to the closing and cleaning after hours as well as an interview.