Funaoka Onsen is one of the most iconic bath houses in Kyoto. For over a hundred years locals and travellers have soaked their weary bodies and sought relaxation here. The locals fondly nicknamed the bath House “King of Sentō”.
The building hasn’t changed much since its opening. It is perhaps one of the few bath houses in Kyoto where time has stood still. It gives a great impression of what bathing in Kyoto meant a hundred years ago.
This has earned Funaoka Onsen a mention in the Lonely Planet guide of Japan. There it’s claimed that this is the best bath house in Kyoto.
Some of the more impressive features of this sentō include the cypress wood bathtub in the garden, the ornate water fountain in the cold water bath and the decorated ceiling of the changing room. Besides that there is a sauna, water jets, an electric bath and a rather large hot bath.
Make sure to check out the carved wooden panels along the edges of the ceiling in the dressing room. Local wood-carvers produced these panels during Japan’s invasion of Manchuria. The (sometimes violent) images offer some insight into the prevailing mindset of that time.
The first electric bath in Japan is reported to have been installed here, at Funaoka Onsen.
Funaoka Onsen around the web
In the centre of the bathing area is the main bath: a deep bath with water jets on one end. Behind that is a shallow bath connected to a denkiburo. Besides that there is also a medicinal bath with regularly changing minerals or herbs.
What is striking about Kinryū-yu is the large mural on the back wall. The women’s bath features a lake with a church-like structure on the shore, the men only see rocks and the lake. It is as if the lake water runs into the baths underneath.
On Tuesdays, when Kinryū-yu is closed for regular bathing, it is often used as an event space with live music and flea markets. Kinryū-yu calls this 銭湯deフェスタ (Sentō de Festa). These events are hosted by Yuu-chan. Read her blog here (and the Google translation here).