A tent turned into a Finnish-style sauna pitched at Lake Biwako in Nagahama, Shiga Prefecture. (Hikaru Uchida)

NAGAHAMA, Shiga Prefecture--A trio of tent saunas will open at Lake Biwako here on Helsinki Sauna Day, inviting people to enjoy chest-to-chest talks with strangers.

"When locals and visitors mingle in a sauna at Lake Biwako, I think something interesting will come out of it," said Kyohei Yamamoto, 42, who came up with the idea of opening the saunas.

Yamamoto pitched three tents close to the shore, each with a maximum capacity of six people. In the DIY-style sauna, known as “loyly” in Finland, set to open March 9, stones are heated over a wood-burning stove set up inside. When water is poured over the stones, it creates hot steam. After the body is warmed up, users can take a dip in the icy lake water to cool down.

The whole experience is intended to renew oneself in body and spirit in the middle of the vast wilderness.

Yamamoto is an heir of a Japanese-style ryokan, with a hot spring, standing at the edge of the lake in Nagahama.

When he was trying to think of ways to bring in more visitors and boost tourism, he saw a group of people setting up a tent to enjoy a sauna by the lake.

The encounter gave him an epiphany: “A combination of sauna and Lake Biwako will surely give people a deeper sense of Nagahama’s nature and charms.”

He then met Finn Jaakko Kalsi, 34, an expat in Japan who used to live in Nagahama.

Kalsi became a matchmaker of sorts, introducing Yamamoto to a sauna lover’s annual dream event, Helsinki Sauna Day on March 9.

For one day a year, residents of Finland’s capital who have a sauna at home open the doors and welcome everybody to enjoy bathing for free. All of the participating saunas register online and the information is made available to the public on the Internet.

The quirky, one-of-a-kind event was launched in 2016 in the hope of rediscovering the merits of the Finnish tradition of public sauna and enjoying closeness with others.

“Everybody is naked in a sauna,” Kalsi said. “Status or title doesn’t matter. It is an ideal place for different people to gather.”

This year marks the 100th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Finland.

Yamamoto thought it would be fun to participate in the event from Japan, and contacted the organizer, who approved on condition that it is “free and open to everybody.”

Yamamoto’s three lakeside tents are the sole participant from Japan and officially recognized as “the furthest from the host city.”

The sauna will be open from noon to 5 p.m. on March 9. Reservations are not required, but waits are expected when all three tents are full.

For more information: (https://www.facebook.com/events/383011145851559/).