Bathing in Japan can be a cleansing experience on many levels, but much of the attention in this regard, rather understandably, goes to the luscious scenery and tranquility provided by the onsen baths in ryokan (traditional Japanese inns), or the beautiful hot spring towns that bring the world of Spirited Away to life. Less explored are these onsen's more casual counterpart, sento, public bathhouses with just as rich and storied a history. Open to the public and often located in big cities, sento typically feature murals of soothing countryside landscapes, running streams, and Mt. Fuji to help instill tranquility in patrons as they bathe and forget their big city woes.

Working hard with her brush to preserve what appears to be a waning tradition is Mizuki Tanaka, Japan's first female sento mural artist, who has an undying passion for creating new worlds on the walls of sento, even as fewer and fewer people come to the communal baths, the number of which are also declining. While she expresses that living as an artisan in Japan is becoming more difficult, she continues her work with the same joy of creating new worlds to help relax those who come to sento for their moment of serenity, and also speaks at events to share information on the artistic process.

In the video below, Great Big Story, who recently shared a wonderful story about an elderly diver who has been visiting his fish friend at an underwater shrine for the past 30 years, takes a look at Tanaka's art and her efforts to keep sento and their beautiful murals alive.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.