I’ve gone to the public bath twice and I’m not sure how to live without it now.
Japanese bathhouses, or Sentō, exist because in the past, many homes did not have bathtubs. The sentō also serve as a place to socialize and relax. Japan-Guide has a great article on sentō history and guidelines:
I was so nervous that I’d get there and be subjected to locker room style judgement. But no one batted an eye. As my awesome roommate, Dina, explained it: “no one’s gonna look at us! They just want to shower”. And with that, the four of us went for it. The bathhouse is maybe 200 feet from our house. It’s called Heiwayu, and it’s super cozy.
Heiwayu’s site: http://www.heiwayu.net/
It was so nice to soak bare naked in a massive hot tub with my new closest friends. It feels weird to type out, but I’d never felt so comfortable in my own nudity. The atmosphere of Heiwayu also helped with that. The employees were kind and welcoming, the patrons paid absolutely zero attention to us, which eased my nerves a lot.
I felt free from all of my insecurities. It even carried over into our beach trip, where I had no qualms about wearing a “real bikini” for the first time.
I recommend everyone go to a public bath at least once. No judgement, no staring, no worries. Just hot water and showers.