Public baths are central to life in Japan. Any neighborhood will have at least one well-frequented sento, often represented on Google Maps with the symbol  ♨️. In an update on the custom, saunas have been growing hugely sought-after, even labeled a “sauna boom.” These days, you can find them anywhere from along the Japanese coastline to inside a Shibuya office building near the love hotel district.

Sauna Ikitai released a new app to navigate the craze in early February. Originally a directory and ratings site, Sauna Ikitai — which straightforwardly means “I Want To Go To The Sauna” — launched in 2017. This year, it went mobile with its roster of over 11,000 listings. 

Open the app, and you’ll be confronted by the image of two cartoon characters drooling, presumably at the prospect of relaxing in a steam room. With location-sharing enabled, the home screen alerts you to how many saunas are in your area (449 within a 10-kilometer radius for me), which you can search for by browsing the map. A more detailed search function allows filtering by various factors: type of sauna (you might want to find one within an onsen complex, for example, or attached to a campsite for a future getaway); features (do you want television screens, or temperatures above 100 degrees Celsius, or to be whacked with branches for circulation-boosting purposes?); or newly opened facilities. Click into individual listings and you’ll see useful details like entry fees, busy periods, amenities like Wi-Fi, and even information on whether tattoos are allowed (grounds for being barred entry in Japan).

The Sauna Ikitai app immediately topped the Travel download charts after its launch, though its rankings had lost some steam by the time of writing. The app is still in its first iterations, and promises more features in the future, including membership discounts and partnerships with saunas.

App Name:SAUNA IKITAI / サウナイキタイ
Release date:7 February 2023
Platforms:iOS, Android