In Japan, public bathhouses, known as sento, are used by people of all ages, from very young children, accompanied by a parent, to the elderly. While some people simply like the ease and convenience of using a public bathhouse, which can save on water bills and cleaning at home, others like to visit the sento for the purported health benefits of their waters, which are sometimes sourced from natural hot springs, while others have no choice but to use the local bathhouse, given that some apartments in Japan don’t come with baths or showers.
Then there are others who appear to confuse the bathhouse as a place for sexual activity, which is not its intended purpose. That’s what’s been happening at one particular sento in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward, where two men were caught engaging in sexual acts last November. The two men, both in their thirties, were subsequently charged with public obscenity and admitted to the charges, saying they were aware that they would be causing trouble for the establishment, due to signage on the premises, but they “succumbed to temptation”.
The men say they had no previous acquaintance with each other, and met at the public bath on the day of the incident. The sexual activity was said to have taken course over about 20 minutes in the open-air bathing area, while the door to the area was unlocked and about 15 guests were using the inside baths.
▼ This TBS News report shows the facility where the incident took place.
The manager says he has reported around 40 such incidents of sexual activity between gay customers on the premises to police in the last four to five years. He also said the establishment has been a public bathhouse for the past 70 years and expressed his disappointment that the sento has now become labelled, through the internet, as a place for gay people to meet up for casual hookups, even though sexual activity is prohibited by the management.
Sex at the sento has become such a problem that the manager has posted a sign on the wall that reads: “LGBT customers without morals or standards are not permitted.”
The manager went on to defend the signage, saying he doesn’t believe all members of the LGBT community would take part in such activities, but the sign was put up to help prevent incidents from occurring, so that all customers would be able to bathe peacefully at the facility.
The sign, however, goes into quite a bit of detail, saying:
“Shibuya Ward has enacted its ordinance on same-sex partnerships but at this establishment LGBT customers without morals or standards are not permitted.”
A list of prohibited behaviors follows, covering things such as: “inviting acts“, “intense looks“, “following around“, “making out“, and “touching“.
People online had mixed reactions:
“The signs shouldn’t be addressed to gay people, they should be banning all public sexual acts without any mention of sexual preferences.”
“Don’t gay people who have sex at public baths realize they’re giving their community a bad name?”
“I used to have to patrol the bathing areas when I worked at a sento and whenever I found gay men having sex, I’d tell them to go to a love hotel.”
“I’m gay but I’ve quit going to public baths for sex. It’s not the place for it.”
“It’s inconsiderate to others who use the baths for bathing. There are plenty of other places where you can cruise for sex.”
Source: TBS News via Hachima Kiko
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