Funaoka Onsen, which is actually a sento, is the best public bath in Kyoto. It’s well worth a trip across town to relax in this beautiful bath house.
Funaoka Onsen exterior shot – image © Chris Rowthorn
Located in northwest Kyoto, Funaoka Onsen is the best place in the city to take the plunge and try the Japanese sento (public bath) experience. Despite the word “onsen” in the name, it’s not a real onsen (natural hot spring bath), but who cares? It’s a fantastic bath.
Funaoka Onsen is a classic in every way. It starts with a gorgeous entryway that is surrounded by enormous stones. Upon entry, you must choose which changing room to enter. The signs are only in Japanese: 御殿方 (men) and御婦人 (women).
Once inside, the first thing you will notice in the changing rooms are the ranma – carved wooden panels near the top of the walls. These depict the Japanese invasion and occupation of Manchuria leading up to WWII. Frankly, it’s amazing that they haven’t been removed in light of modern sensibilities. Don’t worry: The place is hardly a hotbed of nationalist sentiment. I guess the owners just regard them as valuable artworks, which indeed they are. In addition to the ranma, the walls are decorated with beautiful tiles.
Funaoka Onsen Ranma – image © Chris Rowthorn
Once you step into the bathing area, you will be dazzled by the choice of tubs: There is a huge variety of baths, including a wooden bath, a giant bath, an extra-hot bath, and an herbal bath with tannin-colored water. There’s even an electric bath, which is only labeled in Japanese: 電気風呂. You can imagine how many unwitting gaijin tourists have jumped into this bath and received the, um, shock of their life. Don’t worry – it’s not dangerous, it’s just an odd sensation.
After washing yourself and soaking in the inside baths, head through the door and jump in the fantastic rotemburo (outdoor bath). Next to this is a stone-lined cold bath, and next to that is the spacious sauna. When you go into the sauna, grab one of the sauna mats to put on the bench and put it on the used piled when you are done.
Funaoka Onsen is a little tricky to get to. Scroll down for transport details. If you’d like to take a taxi, here’s the name of the place in Japanese: 船岡温泉 (Funaoka Onsen).
Visit the Funaoka Onsen website to see some more interior photos.
For information on what to do in a Japanese sento, see our Kyoto’s Best Sentos page.
82-1 Funaoka-cho, Murasakino Minami, Kita-ku
Mon-Sat: 3pm to 1am the following day
Sun: 8am to 1am the following day
Take bus No 206 from Kyoto Station to the Senbon-Kuramaguchi bus stop and walk about five minutes or,
Take the Karasuma subway line to Kuramaguchi Station and walk for 20 minutes or,
Take a taxi from Downtown Kyoto (around Y1500 and 15 minutes). Tell the taxi driver you want to go to船岡温泉 (Funaoka Onsen).
Official Website (Japanese)
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