Last night Rob, Matt and I went to a public bath (銭湯, sentou) in Tama (多摩). I'd been with them to an onsen (温泉) hot spring last year, so we'd seen each other completely naked before, which is a weird thought! But we all fancied a soak and a bit of relax so Rob and I cycled to near TUFS and met Matt.
The public baths work just like hot springs, but are much more common, and cheaper. It cost about Y400 for us to go in, and there wasn't a time limit, except for the closing time, which was about 11pm.
You first put your shoes in the small lockers near the reception, and then go through the curtain to the changing rooms, 男 means men and 女 means women.
In the changing rooms you completely undress and put your clothes in a locker. With sentou you often need to bring your own towel, modesty towel (to cover areas you don't want other people to see) and shampoo etc. Onsen usually provide these things.
Then you go through into the main bath area and sit in front of one of the mirrors on a small stool and wash yourself all over. Make sure to wash off all of the soap before getting into the bath. In the bath I went to, there was one large hot bath, with jacuzzi-style areas along one wall, and one ice-cold bath. It's quite dangerous to change your body's temperature so quickly so be careful if you want to try the cold one!
The water temperature is often extremely hot. The one we went to was about 40-50C, and we couldn't stay submerged too long. The Japanese guys seemed more used to it, but we poor Westerners just couldn't manage!
We stayed for just under an hour and then washed again and got dressed. It's so nice on your muscles! Especially when the last time I had a bath was at home in November, it's only showers for me here!