Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Along the tiny Kamiya River in western Kyoto, just off Nishi Oji Dori, is a great old sento.
It has a standard entrance, with the banto-san - the person whom you pay - seated inside on a chair that overlooks both male and female dressing rooms.
(There is nothing odd about this. The banto is usually the owner, and he or she will wander in and out of the bath while you and many others are completely nude. A wall, of course, separates the female and male dressing rooms and baths.)
The interior was fairly basic: a few baths, a high ceiling with a skylight, and a sauna.
On the outside of the sento though was a wood sign that bore the standard symbol for public bath: 湯 (yu). It had been carved and had worn well with age.
Today public baths have an electric sign in the shape of the same kanji. This sento is the only one we have ever seen with an old wood sign.
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