They offer a haven from the social constructs, expectations and criticisms of the everyday world, and foster an honest but supportive environment. Usually designed with beautiful outdoor views, traditional cedarwood tubs and a calming atmosphere, onsen are a draw for couples and friends seeking a relaxing break from everyday life. Mixing steam with secrets, bathhouses in Japan are a unique bubble of social space. Often claiming a myriad of restorative properties, from purifying skin to easing arthritis, they are regularly cited in legends as healing animals and ancient gods. Using artificially heated tap water, sento are often brighter, tiled spaces with colourful murals and lower entry prices.
Elin. Age: 23.
Originally reserved for monks during the introduction of Buddhism in 6th-Century Japan, the baths were eventually opened to the public, albeit initially only to the ill and the wealthy.
Ariel. Age: 24.
Hairy European Babes
By offering a space for truly inclusive nudity, public baths are a unique chance to familiarise children with the natural form in a world where air-brushed, provocatively posed bodies are all too common. Children are brought to the sento as soon as they can walk to be introduced to this rare world where nudity is neither celebrated nor shamed, simply accepted. When bathing, however, the seemingly simple gesture of removing your clothes serves to remove your societal position, albeit temporarily. Half-familiar from the neighbourhood, we agreed that the waters were surprisingly hot, all the while submerging our bare shoulders just a little deeper. While their physical practicalities may no longer be required in contemporary society, there is an everlasting need for the community spirit they foster.