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Tweet of the Week #139: What’s With Bottled Milk at Public Baths in Japan?

There's a lot of history and regulation going on with milk and sento.

By 2 min read

Japanese homes are typically equipped with fancy Japanese bath units, but public baths, or sento, are still common facilitiesAlthough usually frequented by the elderly, they’re starting to become cool again with young people.

One traditional aspect of sento is enjoying a cold glass of milk. No one is really sure why, but one theory is that in the 1950s, sento offered common folk luxuries rarely seen in an average home: television, washing machines and refrigerators.

As a result, milk vendors saw a strategic advantage in stocking a sento with cold milk. Thus, drinking cold milk after a hot bath became a thing. Today, milk, coffee (with milk), fruity milk and other drinks are a sento staple, but the coffee variation is the most popular flavor.

Got milk?




“Drinking bottled milk at a sento seems obvious, but you actually need permission from the public health center to sell it.

As of last month, it has been changed to only require notification, but if you want to start selling new products, you will need to appoint a food hygiene supervisor. Surprisingly, there are many hurdles to selling bottled milk. If you see milk at a public bath, please give it a try!”

How to state the obvious

Based on the word 当然とうぜん (natural), 当たり前 is a common expression used to speak about things that are obvious, or in other words, “the way it is” and “the way it should be.”

  • 当たり前だろう: “Of course!”
  • 当たり前だ: “It goes without saying!”
  • 当たり前じゃない: “Of course, not.”
  • 日本にほんでは当たり前のことが海外かいがいでは当たり前ではない: “What is commonplace in Japan is not commonplace in other countries.”
  • 挨拶あいさつをすることは当たり前礼儀れいぎです: “It’s common courtesy to say hello.”
  • それはだれもが当たり前とかんがえる: “It’s something we all take for granted.”


Japanese Romaji English
銭湯せんとう sentou Public bath, bathing house
びん牛乳ぎゅうにゅう bingyuunyuu Glass bottle milk
販売はんばいする hanbai suru Sell
保健所ほけんじょ hokenjo Health center
許可きょかがいる kyouka ga iru The/a permission is necessary
届出とどけで todoke Notification
場合ばあい baai ha In the event of, in the case that
食品しょくひん衛生えいせい責任者せきにんしゃ shokuhineiseisekininsha Food sanitation supervisor
設置せっち secchi Set up
必要ひつようになる hitsuyou ni naru Become necessary
意外いがい igai to Surprisingly
ハードルがたか haadoru ga takai High hurdles

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