With the winter days getter ever so colder, many Japanese people take refuge in onsen (hot springs) or sento (bath houses). Slipping into a pool of warm water and letting it soak deep into your body is a great way to beat the cold weather.

Even though Japan has thousands of onsen and sento, the experience might get a little tedious after repeated use. So, to take a dip in something totally new, our reporter went to the Szechenyi Thermal Bath in Budapest, Hungary to see how its done on the other side of the world and whether it can compare to Japan’s own incredible offerings.

Passing through the expansive City Park of Budapest our reporter approached the massive bathhouse. Being so large it housed 12 different types of baths including three gigantic pools. Some of the baths were open-air, while others were specially illuminated for night bathing.

These baths contained mixtures of sulfate, calcium, magnesium, bicarbonate, and fluoride. It’s said they have a beneficial effect on the body in areas such as the spine.

Inside, our man saw a sign that read “Mixed Bathing,” immediately making him think “Well aaaall right!” Luckily, he could also understand the sign that read “no entry without swimsuit” just in the nick of time.

The mixed bath was more like a public pool and had the atmosphere of the park outside. Dozens of people were hanging out in various states of dress. He even caught the occasional woman sporting a bathing cap.

A couple of taboos in Japanese bath houses didn’t seem to apply here. People could wear towels in the water, and wearing sandals to walk on the decks were common. Also instead of playing Go to pass the time people here played chess in the water.

These little differences were charming to our reporter and he felt kind of like he was on the set of the movie adaptation of the popular manga Thermae Romae–the story about an architect from Ancient Rome who gets transported into modern day Japan and gets ideas to build the ideal bathhouse in his own time.

In the spirit of this our reporter thought he could bring something back from his experience at Szechenyi Thermal Bath and is shopping around for a water-proof chess set as we speak.

Szechenyi Thermal Bath
Allatkerti krt. 11, Budapest 1146 Hungary
6:00am to 10:00pm

Original Report by U-Nii-Man
Photos: Takashi Mikami

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