There are two types of bath houses in Japan: onsen and sento. While there are obvious similarities between the two – they're both communal hot-water baths and visitors must adhere to certain rules of etiquette – there is one significant difference: onsen are filled with natural volcanic spring water, known for its rich and healing mineral content, while sento simply use heated tap water (although some do add minerals and infusions to the water). Most Tokyo bath houses offer a variety of facilities other than just the bath, for example they may have a sauna (we recommend trying out a ganban-yoku, or bedrock sauna, where you lie down on a large, heated stone), or a rotenburo (outdoor spring), whirlpool baths, electric baths or massage services.
Rooted in Japanese tradition, bath houses are still very much a part of daily living here, although sadly we're seeing more and more closing down since modern homes are now equipped with baths. Still, no-one's going to dispute the absolute heaven of stepping into a steaming healing bath, especially in the middle of winter. Which is why we've rounded up 10 of our favourites for you – nine of which are onsen, the other a sento – and divided them into price categories. Best thing is, unlike Western spas, a small entrance fee lets you stay in the bliss long past the skin-wrinkling stage. And if you're looking for a less urban experience, try our hot spring getaways guide.
Spa complexes: ¥2,000 and up
Admission Adults ¥2,634, children ¥1,944
Admission Adults ¥2,480 (daytime), ¥1,980 (night time), ¥1,580 (early morning), children ¥1,000, children below four, free
Admission Adults ¥2,310, night spa (after 6pm) ¥1,295
Admission Adults ¥2,000, children ¥1,050, infants ¥530, late-night surcharge (after 1am) ¥1,250
Middle of the road: ¥1,000 and up
Admission Adults ¥1,296, children ¥756
Admission Adults from ¥1,290 to ¥1,710, children from ¥640 to ¥780
Admission Adults from ¥900 to ¥1,200, children from ¥700 to ¥1,000, children under three, free
Admission Adults from ¥900 to ¥1,200, children from ¥500 to ¥600
Budget-friendly: under ¥1,000
Admission Adults from ¥750 to ¥850, children from ¥400 to ¥450
Admission Adults from ¥800 to ¥950, children from ¥450 to ¥650