Being a volcanic country, Japan is very rich in natural hot springs (onsen 温泉 in Japanese). Onsens were used here since old times, and they inspired people to build bathing facilities around them. But even more than this, the hot springs inspired people to build public baths with warm water, called today sento.
The first public baths in Japan appeared around the Buddhist temples, during the Nara Period, being related to a purification ritual. With time, their importance grew so much that the public bath became part of the Shichido garan, the ideal set of buildings for a Buddhist temple.
The term sento appeared for the first time in 1266, and the public bath became a popular phenomenon during the Edo Period, after the first sento in Edo was established by Yoichi Iseno in 1591, somewhere around the today’s Tokyo Station. Amazingly, the sento architecture preserved the style of the first temple public baths until today…
Yesterday’s Japan Photo: