Japan is now in the middle of a sauna fad! Someone coined the word “totonou,” which literally means “getting in shape” or “tidying up,” describing the action of relaxing yourself in a sauna. Sauna lovers are now called “saunner,” and they are deeply immersing themselves in the experience of “totonou.” You can now find saunas at various places, not only within “sento” (public bathhouses) but also in outdoor facilities and sauna spas. This article introduces you to the saunas in Tokyo and all over Japan recommended by the No. 1 saunner at the att.JAPAN editorial office!
* For sauna beginners, the elderly, and people with health conditions, please make sure to try a sauna without causing any physical strain.
* Please check the site below for the manners when taking baths at sento public bathhouses and onsen facilities: https://www.1010.or.jp/english/how-to-enjoy-sento/
A good way to “totonou” in the sauna
1. Before getting in a sauna room, wash your body thoroughly. Make sure to be adequately hydrated.
2. Dry yourself well, then enter the sauna room. Many saunas have seats arranged in tiers and the heat varies depending on the level of the seat: the higher your seat, the hotter you will feel. So, if you are not used to the heat in a sauna, you may want to take a seat at a lower tier and take more time to sweat. One session from entering to leaving a sauna room should be around 10 minutes, but you should adjust it to your own pace and never push yourself to stay longer.
3. Upon leaving the sauna, rinse yourself with water to wash off the sweat and relax in a cold bath. You should stay for about 1 minute, but again not push yourself. If you have never tried a cold bath after a sauna, you may have a strong sensation of coldness, but you will feel more comfortable in a cold bath after you get used to it.
4. Leave the cold bath and take a long rest. You should close your eyes and calm your mind without thinking about anything. If you can get some fresh air, the breeze and natural sounds will bring a pleasant sensation.
By repeating the above steps 2 to 4 a couple of times, you can raise and lower overall blood flow repeatedly, stimulating your autonomic nervous system. This is supposed to cause a “state close to meditation,” which is the essence of “totonou.”
Keywords to remember about the sauna
There are many kinds of sauna. In addition to a standard high-temperature, low-humidity dry sauna, there are many others, such as a mist sauna with high humidity and a far-infrared sauna. The temperature settings also vary at different facilities, and some offer a super high-temperature sauna at above 100 degrees Celsius.
What is “loyly”?
Loyly is a special way to take a sauna, by which vapor is generated by pouring water onto heated stones, thus keeping the humidity and temperature high in the sauna room. Some facilities have a facility staff member to pour the water, some let sauna users do it, and some have an auto-loyly system to pour water on the sauna stones. If you want to do loyly yourself, make sure to ask other people in the sauna room in advance if they don’t mind.
Right after loyly, the temperature rises significantly with hot air filling the whole room! The higher the seat, the hotter you will feel, so if you are a beginner, it is best to stay on a lower seat.
What is “aufguss”?
Aufguss is the action of blowing the hot steam generated by loyly toward the sauna users. It is usually done by staff using a fan or towel. When you get the hot steam blown your way, you will break out into a heavy sweat. You can feel more heat than by loyly alone! Staff in charge of aufguss, “aufgusser” in German, are called “neppashi” in Japanese.
An old-style, unpretentious sento near TOKYO SKYTREE. It features two types of saunas, including a low-temperature “yomogi” (mugwort) steam salt sauna and a high-temperature far-infrared sauna. On the 2nd floor of the building, there is an outdoor space on a wood deck where you can rest on a hammock or bench while admiring TOKYO SKYTREE!
Daikokuyu wood deck
Fees: 500 yen for bath, pay separately for sauna: 300 yen for weekdays, 330 yen for Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays
An old sento with a history of over 50 years, it reopened as a modern, stylish sento in March 2022 after a major renovation. The sauna at this sento features “music loyly,” in which you can experience strong auto-loyly along with loud BGM. Taking a sauna while listening to music will hype you up!
Fees: 500 yen for bathing (including fee for sauna) Fully equipped with amenities, towel rental available
2-27-12 Nakarokugo, Ota-ku, Tokyo
2-minute walk from Zoshiki Station (Keikyu)
3rd Thursday in March, May, September, and November
This private sauna facility just opened in Ueno in April 2022. Private rooms are available for individuals and same-sex pairs. This sauna has been drawing attention as it utilizes the latest technologies to allow people to use all their five senses. Wear a special bracelet that records your heart rate and displays the “totonou level” as a number of points at the end, adding an enjoyable game element.
5,800 yen for 80 min. per room for one person
7,800 yen for 120 min. per room for one person
8,400 yen for 80 min. per room for 2 people
11,000 yen for 120 min. per room for 2 people
* It is recommended to make a reservation in advance.
3-44-7 Yushima, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo
3-minute walk from Yushima Station (Subway), 5-minute walk from Ueno-okachimachi Station (Subway)/Ueno-hirokoji Station (Subway)
This facility in a renovated century-old folk house creates a quiet space by allowing only three groups per day to stay. Enjoy the Finnish sauna surrounded by nature in Yamazoe Village in the mountains of Nara Prefecture. The combination of the sauna with crackling wood fire, the cold water bath, whose temperature fluctuates with the weather, and the wood deck, where you can get some air amid the mountain vistas, allows you to experience wholeness with nature.
Fees: 17,600 yen and up for 2 people for a day-trip plan (ume, sauna and BBQ) (11:00-14:00)
452 Katahira, Yamazoe-mura, Yamabe County, Nara Prefecture
45 minutes by car from Nara Station (JR, Kintetsu), or 15 minutes by car from Nabari Station (Kintetsu)
“Nolla naguri” is a facility where you can enjoy Nordic culture through glamping, BBQ, and sauna in nature. Among other features, the best part of this facility is that you can reserve a Finnish-style tent sauna! (one tent for 2 to 4 people). You can enjoy the sauna in your own way, such as sweating with self-loyly, taking an outside air bath, and getting Nordic dishes and drinks at a stand for a break.
weekdays: 8,000 yen for 2 people per day (plus 2,000 yen for an additional person, up to 2 additional people allowed)
Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays: 10,000 yen for 2 people per day (plus 2,500 yen for an additional person, up to 2 additional people allowed)
607-1 Shimonaguri, Hanno City, Saitama Prefecture
about 40 minutes by bus from Hanno Station (Seibu) / Get on Kokusai Kogyo Bus (飯01-2, 飯02-2, or 飯03-2) -> Get off at “Nolla naguri, Sawarabinoyu” and take a short walk from the bus stop. / Get on Kokusai Kogyo Bus (飯01, 飯02, or飯03) -> Get off at “Kawamata-Naguriko Iriguchi” and take a 10-minute walk
sauna: 10:30-16:00 (return all rental items by 17:00)
Directly connected to Yokohama Station, this spa facility features a gorgeous view only available from a high-rise building. Reopening in 2021 after a major renovation, it now has a “Sauna Theater,” which is one of the largest spas in Japan. It is a unisex sauna facility, which offers unique sauna experiences, such as an “Aufguss Show” using screen images.
Fees: 2,450 yen for weekdays, 2,950 yen for Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays
Sky Building 14F, 2-19-12 Takashima, Nishi-ku, Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture
5-minute walk from Yokohama Station (JR, Subway, Tokyu, Keikyu, Sotetsu)
I am Akito from Tokushima Prefecture, currently living in a shitamachi old downtown area in Tokyo. I love sento public bath facilities and travelling, visiting sento once a week and travelling once a month. Nowadays, I am into strolling around the areas in Tokyo that I have never been to!