Revelations at a Japanese Bathhouse

Nothing captures the style of Japan quite like the sentō

Vincent Van Patten
Japonica Publication


Photo by Soyoung Han on Unsplash

It’s the end of May, one of those days that makes me grateful to be alive. That’s happening pretty often.

We’re entering the rainy season. I step out of the sentō (Japanese bathhouse) into the warm and stormy night.

The street is dimly lit, and the sound of rain drums on the tin roof above the walkway. This scene may mean little to you. It means everything to me.

I try to illustrate the feeling, the essence of the country which, like a thread, will forever weave through the fabric of my being, no matter where I call home.

But words can only do so much.

Still, try to imagine the moisture in the air; listen to the pattering on the tin roof, the sound like a typewriter; feel the wind blowing across your face; watch the shadowed navy street, where reflections of blinking neon lights dance on the surfaces of puddles.

This to me is the feeling of Japan: Melancholic. Hopeful. Vibrant. Wise. Feelings that, when threaded together, fashion an overall style.

I’m in my neighborhood, Nakano, on the outskirts of Tokyo, across the street from my apartment. Yes, I live across the street from the sentō, and it’s glorious.