Saunas shed dowdy image in Japan

A sauna run by Skyspa Yokohama in Japan doubles as a conference room, where business executives can also conduct work-related meetings.
A sauna run by Skyspa Yokohama in Japan doubles as a conference room, where business executives can also conduct work-related meetings.PHOTO: SKYSPA YOKOHAMA

TOKYO • An increasing number of young people in Japan now enjoy saunas, shedding the activity's old-man image.

Recently, new sauna facilities have emerged, some offering temperatures lower than the conventional ones at 70 deg C to 80 deg C. Some saunas are even attached to work spaces.

Among the new wave of sauna enthusiasts or "saunners" is Ms Mika Saito, 33, who works at a university in Tokyo. She visits a public bathhouse in her neighbourhood almost every day after work.

There, she warms her body in a sauna room and takes a cold bath. She spends about an hour repeating this process several times. "Not only is my body refreshed, but my mind is also renewed," she said.

Ms Saito has been posting messages related to saunas on Twitter for about three years. She feels that the popularity of saunas is spreading. "Recently, there has been an increasing number of postings from women who love saunas. I sometimes go to saunas together with such women on my days off."

Sauna facilities in Japan began appearing in the 1950s and 60s, but many were for men only as they were often attached to capsule hotels. New services recently have helped to boost the popularity of saunas. They include "loyly", in which water is sprayed onto hot stones to make steam that helps users perspire, and "aufguss", in which users enjoy air currents created by a person waving a towel.

The sauna culture is promoted at some companies. Tokyo-based Tabi-Labo, an Internet media company, has subsidised sauna usage fees for its employees since August. About 80 per cent of its staff use the system. An executive said: "Communication between them has also became more active. It helps their jobs in a positive way."

At a Skyspa Yokohama sauna near Yokohama station, part of the facility has been transformed into a "co-working space" in a bid to attract customers.

YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 07, 2019, with the headline 'Saunas shed dowdy image in Japan'. Print Edition | Subscribe