My grandmother used to take me to a sauna when she needed a massage to ease her muscular pain. I would wait for her after the bath and spend some time reading books or playing games. The sauna had a few amenities, but this place was different from the large public bathhouses, known as jjimjilbangs, which have become part of everyday life in Korea.
Jjimjilbang is compound word that means simply heated room. There’s a story that workers in charcoal burning sheds came up with the idea of the jjimjilbang during their breaks.
In a typical jjimjilbang, small rooms made of various materials are heated to a range of temperatures. Not every room aims to warm. Some rooms are made of artificial snow and are maintained at the freezing point.
Some of jjimjilbangs are gender segregated but most of them are coed facilities with men and women bathing on separate floors. Snack bars and rooms for sleeping are on shared floors. Ondol heated floors (mentioned in a previous ) are spread out in lounging and sleeping areas. Mats and pillows are made out of leather and wood for sanitary reasons.
Some saunas boast restraunts, PCs, wide-screen TVs, massage services, exercise equipment, kids play areas, indoor sports amenities, hair salon, and even karaokes.
There is a base admission fee. You get a towel, a robe, special water and a heat-resistant key bracelet. The bracelet opens the locker and works like a charge card.
Some jjimjilbangs are open 24 hours. If you want to spend the night, which many people do, you can pay more on top of your entrance fee. If you get hungry or thirsty, you can visit the snack bar and use your special bracelet to pay when you check out.
There are a few Korean-style saunas in the United States. While it’s much smaller than its counterparts in Korea, PsySauna in San Leandro is the closest such place to Rosemont.