tattoo-friendly sento tokyo japan

Hisamatsuyu, Nerima

Projection mapping, carbonated water and an outdoor onsen

Any seasoned onsen or sento-goer will be impressed by Hisamatsuyu. Refurbished in 2014, the bathhouse is a sleek, gray box, subtly housing some of the best water in the city. Its minimalist design is simple: head inside past the shoe lockers, to the desk straight in front of you. To the left are the women’s baths, to the right are the men’s. Change, shower, and then you’re ready to experience Hisamatsuyu’s range of bathing options.

The large bath is heated to around 38 degrees Celsius and the carbonated bath next to it is a similar temperature. Bathing in carbonated water is said to aid circulation in addition to other health benefits. But it’s the outdoor bath where Hisamtsuyu really shines. As well as being the hottest of all its baths, it is also rich in sodium. Look up while you bathe and allow your body to soak up the onsen’s minerals. To the side, you will see its official certification.

For any keen saunners, the sauna is of the drier variety and the cold-water bath is deep and open to all.

tattoo-friendly sento tokyo japan

Mannenyu, Shinjuku

A silky bath

Mannenyu in Shinjuku is used to tattooed bathers, serving a large proportion of the foreign community nearby. The staff speak enough English to show you the ropes and can point you in the right direction if you get lost.

Small and compact, it’s basically a no-frills bathing experience. Despite being refurbished in 2016, the architect recreated many of the original features, making it what feels like an authentic, traditional bathhouse. The datsuijo or changing area, is a medley of dark woods and low lighting. The bathing area is then decorated with a Japanese crane mosaic.

There are three baths, including an extra-hot one. The water at Mannenyu is pumped up from deep in the ground, making the water super smooth. It will leave you feeling like a duck.

Koganeyu, Asakusa

Modern vibes and artisan touches

Koganeyu is seen as the “cool” sento. Located conveniently in Asakusa, it was refurbished in 2020 and currently serves craft beer from its counter, which also doubles as a DJ booth. Its design by Schemata Architects aims to keep the vibe of the traditional bathhouse while meeting the needs of a modern audience, updating features such as the painted mural above the baths.

The baths include a pool with carbonated water alongside a variety of baths with different temperatures from cold through to extra-hot.

tattoo-friendly sento tokyo japan

Kotobukiyu, Ueno

Easily accessible and near Tokyo Skytree

Located in an unassuming backstreet in Ueno, Kotobukiyu allows you to get the feeling of a hot spring in the middle of Tokyo. It is located so centrally that you can walk there from Ueno.

Both the male and female sections boast a sauna and outdoor bath. Especially on the men’s side, the bath is surrounded by rocks and one could be forgiven for thinking you’d ended up in a hot spring in the countryside. Inside, the daily changing medicinal baths, with aromas including yuzu and lavender, allow for complete relaxation. There are also jet baths, which are great for releasing knots in the muscles.

tattoo-friendly sento tokyo japan

Image by TAINAKA

Inariyu, Ikebukuro

Edo-period bathing with Shitamachi-vibes

After a community effort to save the local bathhouse, Inariyu was reopened in 2022. The group, which established itself as “Sento and Neighborhood” runs it with gusto and recently opened the building next door as a nagaya, or a community space.

The original bathhouse opened in 1913. It has been in its current state for nearly 100 years, since 1930 and is a rare example of a pre-war bathhouse, having escaped bombing. Sento and Neighborhood put in a successful application to have the site recognized as a Tangible Cultural Property. It now stands as one of only two bathhouses in Tokyo to be recognized as such.

Everyone at Inariyu is friendly and welcoming, which can be a breath of fresh air, especially for those with tattoos. Entering the bathhouse is like stepping back a century, to a time when there were no smartphones. The bathing area is simple with three basic pools of hot, medium-hot and warm water.

yoshi no yu outdoor bath

Yuka Wagokoro Yoshinoyu, Suginami

Residential neighborhood vibes

The last time I was in Yoshinoyu, I ended up holding someone’s baby while in the bath. This is a bathhouse for a community that it serves well. It is a rare post-millennium bathhouse, featuring singular tubs, known informally as don-buri or “rice bowl” tubs, big enough for one person, alongside its larger outdoor bath and expansive indoor bath.

Every Saturday, hot spring water arrives at the sento, so for one day a week its bathers can enjoy the benefits of a (relatively) close onsen. It also has a deep cold water bath and a sauna, which featured in the hit manga Sado, as well as jet sprays to massage your body.

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