Higashiyama Yu Onsen on the north west corner of Hyakumanben in Kyoto is an old school sento (public bath house) dating back years.
Posters of Marilyn Monroe and The Beatles peel from the walls of the changing room, smoking seems de rigeur, as is a post bath beer or two. Time slows as you travel back to an earlier, lost, never to be seen again Japan.
The eclectic clientele includes spunky neighborhood ojisan as well as younger students from nearby Kyoto University. Foreigners are in abundance and welcome. On our last visit preening Italians - shaved pates, designer beards and underwear, noisy, smoky, va bene.
Inside the bathing area are all the essential sento necessities for a serious soak: steam sauna, cold plunge, denkiburo (electric bath), herb bath, jacuzzi, several other scalding hot tubs and the piece de la resistance - a neon jet bath illuminated with color strobes.
Note, too, the excellent tile work on the edges of the baths.
Rental towels (that look as though they have polished a thousand cars) are free, so bring your own if you can. Soap, razors, shampoo can all be purchased at the entrance.
Oh, and the BGM is half-decent too with a mix of Japanese and western music to help sooth away the aches and pains. The owner was once in a blues band and worked as a music producer.
Higashiyama Yu Onsen
27 Tanaka Monzencho
Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, 606-8225
Hours: 3.20pm-1am; Saturday & Sunday 3pm-1am; closed Friday
Tel: 075 781 4472
Admission: 420 yen; elementary school children 150 yen
Higashiyama Yu Onsen is across Higashi Oji street from Chionji Temple.
Goods From Japan delivered to your home or business