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OSAKA: Saunas
Recommended by Tokyo Journal, Badi, and Barazoku.

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OSAKA -- area code +81-6

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Saunas and Hattenba

      There are three major gay neighborhoods in Osaka: Doyama-cho, the easiest for visitors to find and navigate; Kabukiza-ura ("behind the Kabuki theater") in Namba, which is smaller and less international but still very friendly; and Tennoji, in the area around Tsutenkaku Tower, which is the original post-war gay neighborhood and has a reputation as being a bit dangerous. Mostly older Japanese men go to Tennoji these days, but some of its saunas are more broadly popular.

      Instructions to the Doyama-cho gay nightlife area: from the JR Train Station, take the south exit, turn left and cross the street to the Hankyu Umeda Station building and continue through to the other side where you will find the large, red HEP 5 shopping center (with the huge red Ferris wheel on the roof) and to its left, adjacent to the elevated tracks, an alley next to the shops bult uder the tracks. Continue down this alley two blocks until it dead-ends at the main avenue with the overhead highway and turn right to the corner of the major intersection. Doyama-cho is now diagonally opposite from where you are. Cross left under the overhead highway, then turn right and cross the smaller diagonal street. You are now at the corner edge of Doyama-cho, a maze of late night bars and restaurants. Turn left at this corner and walk to the next alleyway and take a right. Take this alley straight ahead to find Lupu, Coco love hotel, and Hokuoukan sauna. Explore the alleys to the right in the vicinity for many of the bars mentioned below, which advertise their names on rows of small signs that rise vertically on the building exteriors.

      Exploring Doyama-cho is easy with our map:



        This popular sauna sees lots of action and welcomes well-behaved non-Japanese and the crowd, mostly men in their 30s-50s, is friendly. Bring your passport (in case there are any questions about your age) and leave any large luggage or bags in a coin locker at the train station (sauna lockers are only large enough for a backpack). Five minutes walk from the Osaka Station and the Hankyu Umeda Train Station, in the Doyama gay nightlife area (see general directions above), on the opposite side of the street from Coco love hotel. Large sign in English. There are also circular, lit English language signs for the sauna on many lampposts in the neighborhood with helpful arrows pointing you in the right direction. Entrance is behind an exterior privacy wall and through two sliding glass doors (touch the door "handle" to activate). Take your shoes off before stepping onto the raised platform. Walk into the shoe locker area and deposit a Y$10 coin, then lock your shoes inside (even numbers are for lower clothes lockers, so you might want to take an odd number). Next, go to the ticket machine opposite the check-in desk and decide whether you just want just the sauna (until midnight, and yukata robe is an extra Y$300 at the desk), overnight (yukata included and you can sleep in the mix rooms, bunk beds, or cubicles if you don't mind being pestered, pleasurably or otherwise, throughout the night), or more expensive private room. Tickets are dispensed by age range, so find the price for your age group (under 26, under 40 and over 40). Feed the machine with Y$ bills or coins and press the appropriate button. The machine will dispense change. If you have any problems the desk attendant speaks basic English and will assist you. Next, give your shoe locker key and ticket to the attendant who will give you your locker key and a bag with towel and washcloth. Find the locker that matches your number and change into your towel or yukata (full nudity is only permitted in the bathing area or in the dim mix rooms. When you depart the sauna you must return your used towels and robes in the bag, so keep it in your locker with your valuables. There are coin-operated snack machines and dining lounge on this level. Climb the stairs to 2/F for private western-style shower booths, squat washing stools, steam and sauna rooms, and bathing pools of various temperatures. There are common use cubbyholes to leave your towel or yukata in (only your washcloth is allowed in the bathing area). Also on this floor are a TV lounge and smoker's lounge. The TV lounge is a good place to sit and watch the men go by. If someone likes you they may come and sit right next to you (Japanese are fairly direct if you match their type). On 3/F and 4/F are dimly lit mix (communal) rooms with futon and covers (and tissue boxes galore) and a maze of cubicles. You can sit in the hallway or maze and wait for an inviting glance, or lie down in the mix rooms and wait for someone to approach. Nice mix of all ages. Foreigners, and mature men of all nationalities, will find multiple fans here. Safety supplies sold at reception. Put them to good use because not all Japanese do.
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