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Japan and Korea both have similar concepts of communal bath houses. In Japan they are called sentos and in Korea they are called jjimjilbangs.

In Korea it is usual that jjimjilbangs offer very cheap overnight stays. I paid about $5 a couple of weeks ago. But while I have heard that sentos are very similar in most regards I have never heard of them offering overnight stays. Can somebody confirm whether they do or not?

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Someone ought to ask some time who can and can't use love hotels. – Andrew Grimm Jan 30 '12 at 3:33

4 Answers 4

up vote 9 down vote accepted

In Japan, a Sento usually refers to a neighbourhood public bath which has a more old fashioned image. Sentos don't have accommodation and are not usually open 24 hours a day.

Health Spas or inner city Onsens which are open 24 hours usually have comfortable chairs that you could relax and fall asleep in. It is more of a place to hang out and sweat out a hangover for people who have missed their last train home than tourist accommodation.

For cheap accommodation you might like to look at capsule hotels in the big cities.

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Yes Korean jjimjilbangs seem to mostly be used by people who missed their last train home too. Much like the manga/internet cafes in Japan, which situation I have been in in both countries (-: They are a fraction of the price of a capsule hotel. But thanks for the confirmation both ways! It sounds like jjimjilbangs may be more like these inner city onsens. My experience isn't broad enough. – hippietrail Jul 9 '11 at 4:15
Is "health" a euphemism, or used literally? – Andrew Grimm Jan 30 '12 at 3:29
There is nothing sexual happening in jjimjilbangs, onsens, or sentos supposedly. Not like the reputation bath houses in Western countries have. In Korea, barber shops have some euphemistic corollary though! – hippietrail Jan 30 '12 at 5:33
@hippietrail: I've read that soaplands used to be called toruko-buro before Nusret Sancaklı got in a lather about them. And that onsen geisha were regarded as the most downmarket geisha. As for barber shops, this is apparently also the case in Japan: – Andrew Grimm Feb 3 '12 at 9:07

I have never heard of a sento that offered overnight accommodation. If you want somewhere cheap to stay in Japan, look at renting a Karaoke box all night or staying in a manga-cafe.

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Yes manga cafes/internet cafes are great for a cheap and surprisingly comfortable place to crash and I've used them at least twice. – hippietrail Jun 27 '11 at 2:02

You can find cheap accommodations at onsen ryokan, or Japanese style hot spring inns, if you can find one that will allow you to reserve without meal service. In most cases, people go to onsen with the expectation of an elaborate meal, but there are less extravagant ones and some that offer at least a portion of their rooms without meal service.

However, sento don't generally do this. A hot spring will offer a public bath (usually with water from the hot spring), and many of them are attached to ryokan.

In general, a minshuku or pension will be the most cost-effective option for a budget traveler beyond the hostel/backpacker mode. Many minshuku or pensions have no English-speaking staff, however.

I've stayed in a small number of basic ryokan that offered shared baths for cheap, even in Tokyo, but "cheap" in this case was $45-80/night.

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Yes, some of the so-called "super sentos" do offer 24-hour accommodation and they can serve as impromptu cheap hotels. The super-sentos as well as net cafes are quickly being seen as alternatives to capsule hotels especially for women.

The super-sentos will usually charge a surcharge for staying past 11pm or midnight and so the total fee will be between Y2000-5000 depending on how fancy the place is and its location (central Tokyo is of course much more expensive).

You would stay the night in their relaxation rooms which feature reclineable chairs (much like first-class seats on an airline). All of your belongings are in the locker room, so you don't have to worry about theft. There are magazines and pop-out tvs to entertain you (if you know Japanese). Some relaxation rooms are mixed sex, some are single-sex, and some places have both. You wear the yukata or sento-provided pajamas while inside.

The larger super-sentos have in-house restaurants so you really never have to leave.

The only problem with the super-sentos for visitors is that they don't have luggage storage. You really can only come in with what will fit in your locker -- which is just about the same size as a gym locker in the USA -- so not big enough for a roller suitcase. But if you stored your luggage at the coin locker in the station, it's certainly an option.

Also, most don't allow multi-day stays. They kick you out from 9a - 11a (for example), so that they can clean the facilities. You can take a long walk (with your belongings) and check back in, but it's not the most convenient for that.

Still, I keep it as an option for when I just really need a place to crash for one night.

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Can you offer some typical prices? Otherwise very informative. – hippietrail Feb 19 at 3:46
In my experience, about Y2500 (US$20-25) for the smaller/cheaper places. For something central and very nice in Tokyo, like LaQua (, it's closer to Y3000 for the onsen and then Y2000 for the overnight fee. – RoboKaren Feb 19 at 4:29
Oh much more expensive than the Internet cafes I've used then. It would be better to edit the prices into your existing answer by the way. – hippietrail Feb 19 at 5:43
I've always found net cafes to be super-skeezy at night w/ people watching porn and the the chairs to be of super questionable cleanliness. I've also heard of thefts at the net cafes as the doors to cubicles don't always lock. I'd personally never stay in one as a woman. – RoboKaren Feb 19 at 14:07
Ah as a woman I can't comment but that's definitely a factor. I've only been on my own when I've had no other affordable options and I've found them really surprisingly clean, comfortable, and quiet. It's true that doors don't lock but Japan is probably the world's safest country as far as theft. Anything highly valuable will be with me when I go to the bathroom or vending machine. – hippietrail Feb 19 at 14:21

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