While the use of public bathhouses in Japan is said to have started in the
Kamakura Period (1185-1333), the use of hot springs goes back much
further, with historical records of the custom dating back as far as 631 AD
The ancient Japanese onsen (hot spring) culture is well known throughout the world.
Fewer people know, however, about kazoku-buro (family baths),
a subset of this bathhouse culture particular to Kyushu and Kumamoto
This custom found its origins in the simple idea that it is hard for just a father or mother alone
to look after his or her children during bath time,
and that it would be better if the whole family could bathe together. Yamaga City’s Shinmachi
Onsen opened in 1967 as the first of its type,
and was soon followed by numerous other facilities. There are even 24-hour,
coin-operated family baths for the ultimate in convenience.
These days, some family bath facilities also contain beauty salons and eateries,
making them one-stop spots for family outings. In addition, resort-style family baths,
with elaborate bath interiors and gorgeous designs, are becoming very popular.
Meanwhile, however, laws have been enacted so that these facilities can only be built in certain areas,
causing family baths to become harder to find and more expensive to enjoy.