Anxious over how many people will be seeing your naked body? This cute and clever system will ease your nerves.

As much as we love stepping into sento (public bathhouses) in Japan, there’s always an unanswered question hanging over our heads before we make our way to the changing room to peel off our clothes: How many people are in the bath right now? 

It’s a common thought for locals and foreigners alike, because let’s face it — there’s a big difference between the relaxing experience of bathing alone or with only a few other people in the room, compared to stepping into a bath where a dozen people are already soaking in all the prime spots.

Some people have developed systems of their own to gauge how busy a bath is, by looking at the number of slippers at the entrance to the changing room, for instance, or by poking their heads in to the bathing area to assess the situation, but not everyone is happy with using these covert methods.

▼ Another method is to check how many baskets are upturned like this with no clothes in them — the more there are, the less busy it is.

Most customers choose to simply ask staff about congestion levels directly when they enter the bathhouse, but it isn’t an easy question for staff to answer when they’re away from the bath and at the reception desk. While staff may be able to gauge how many people are currently in the building, it’s not always possible to tell how many are in the bath at any one time, as sento are known for having multiple rooms, where visitors can relax and unwind over a book or a beverage after bathing.

As a result, visiting a public bathhouse can be a bit of a hit-and-miss situation when it comes to how busy it is, especially if you’re not a regular who’s used to the natural ebb-and-flow of visitor numbers at a particular sento throughout the day.

However, a bathhouse in Toyohashi City, Aichi Prefecture, called Ninjinyu, has come up with a clever system to let bathers know how busy their baths are at a glance, and it’s so cute and practical it’s already gone viral online.

As the tweet above shows, Ninjinyu has employed a rubber duck system to indicate the number of people currently in the baths, with the bowl on the left showing the approximate level of congestion in the women’s baths, and the bowl on the right showing the congestion in the men’s.

Ninjinyu says they came up with the system in response to the many enquiries they received from customers about how busy the baths were. Since staff fill the bowls themselves, and the situation can change from moment to moment, there may be a slight difference than that indicated — hence the “だいたいの” (“approximate”) addition to the “current state of congestion” signs taped to the bowls —  but the number of rubber ducks is meant to be used as a rough guide for visitors to get a sense of what they can expect when they step through the bathroom doors.

People online have been heaping praise on the bathhouse for the cute and helpful system, saying:

“I wish all bathhouses in Japan used this system!”
“This makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.”
“What a cute and brilliant idea!”
“Such an easy-to-understand set-up!”
“It could probably be more accurate if bathers put the ducks in the bowls themselves when they enter the baths.”
“I like that it’s not 100-percent accurate. It makes it even cuter.”

For the time-being, staff will continue to be in charge of handling the ducks, as they’re actually used for Ninjinyu’s “rubber duck baths” held on rainy days, which is what they were originally intended for. Now that a number of ducks are “on special duty” with the new system, the rubber duck bath is currently limited only to the women’s baths on rainy days. 

“Sorry to all the men.”

▼ What the rubber duck bath looks like in the women’s area.

Ninjinyu has really grabbed everyone’s attention with their clever solution to a common customer query, and they also plan to provide regular updates of the duck bowls on Twitter so that people can get an idea of the current status of the baths before they visit.

Now all that’s left to do is brush up on our bathhouse etiquette before we visit!

Source: Twitter/@ninjinyu2021 via Net Lab
Featured image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Pakutaso Twitter/@ninjinyu2021
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