Though scholars doubt its authenticity, one of several pithy quotes attributed to Mark Twain speaking of his ultimate demise is, "When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Cincinnati because it's always twenty years behind the times."
Though Kyoto is also known for its embrace of things modern and new, it is in some ways somewhat like that: a bit behind the times, clinging to things discarded in the rest of Japan.
While the neighborhood public bath (sento) is fading fast around the rest of urban Japan - replaced by Super Sento (modern, mega-baths with dining and other facilities) or nothing at all - Kyoto still has many local sentos sprinkled around the city.
However, Kyoto is not immune to trends that have hurt the sento industry: namely, that all private homes now have their own bath. In 1970, the city had 461 public baths. As of 2010, just 187 remained.
The city though is concerned about a decline in the number of baths, and is sponsoring an event to encourage sento use. The city has divided its 40+ km marathon course into four sections - each 10 km long - and is sponsoring walk-and-bathe days.
To help rectify the the decline, the city will sponsor four walks. The first will be from Nishi Kyogoku (close to where the local soccer club Sanga plays) and wind its way to Ninnaji Temple. At the starting point, participants will receive an entry ticket to a sento. After a three-hour walk, it's off to a public bath.
The fee to participate is 410 yen - the amount public baths charge - and applications are being accepted until November 7.
For information, call 075 222 3433.
Kyoto Sento Map
Tags Japan Touring Kyoto Cycle Japanese