Bathhouse Basics 2 – The Jjimjilbang (찜질방)
Jjimjilbang (찜질방) – while bathhouses often provide predominantly water related ‘entertainment, jjimjilbangs provide a space where families and friends, regardless of gender, can intermingle. There is no English term for a jjimjilbang and as they contain saunas and adjoining bathhouses, they are often conflated with ‘saunas,’ ‘bathhouses’ or ‘spas.’ In practice, they are very different.
Common to all jjimjilbang are clothing, ondol heating (underground), large sleeping areas, an adjoining bathhouse and a broad range of entertainment. Television are conveniently located, PC rooms, children play areas, a variety of dry saunas using various minerals, mud or salt rooms, ice rooms, restaurants, libraries, refreshments and in some cases cinemas. Massage chairs, are fairly common and are coin-operated. There are usually other features to provide both comfort and visual appeal – large tree trunks, for example, on which you can sit or play, and various levels of floor decking. Blankets are available in abundance. The size of establishments varies but very often can accommodate several thousand people and like the bathhouses, jjimjilpang may have restricted hours and or a days closure a week, or be open 24 hours.
When you purchase your ticket at the booth and you ask for the jjimjilpang you will be given some form of costume, sometimes a gown or t-shirt and shorts. Usually these are emblazoned with the establishments logo and the may be colour coordinated, one of my local jjimjilbang provides blue for men, pink women and yellow for children.
A selection of jjimjilbang photos giving you an insight into the range of facilities and individual establishment ambiances.