Taste the original atmosphere in the preserved tradition of this sento.
I came to the south exit of Ohanajaya station on the Keisei Line. The waterway, which used to be one of the sights of the Edo era (1603 – 1867), is now Hikifunegawa Shinsuikoen Park. Suehiroyu, located near the park, is today’s target.
The grandmother of the present owner, who used to run a sento in Mikawajima, bought a flower field surrounded by farm land for her son (the first generation owner of Suehiroyu) and set him up in this sento in 1957. Suehiroyu, which was built by a shrine carpenter from Osaka, is an irimoya (1) shaped building in the traditional miyazukuri (2) style, which has chidorihafu (3) above the entrance hall.
After putting your shoes in the shoe box, which is quite a unique wooden one for a sento, pass under the noren (4), open the sliding door and enter the changing room. There, a dignified bandai (5) awaits you. The ceiling is made from 10.9 metre long beams and large Muku (6) boards. Thick beams and pillars support the building. Wood panelling covers the floor. The changing room is full of the warmth of natural wood. In the women’s changing room traditional round-shaped rattan baskets are still now used instead of lockers.
The bathroom, which contains basic necessary facilities, is large and has a relaxed feeling. The back wall of the bathroom with the powerful image created by the huge painting of Mt Fuji and the wide space created by the high ceiling: we can never taste at home such genuine pleasures of the sento. The wooden pails, which we can seldom see these days, are used still now. The temperature of the well water, which is heated by a combination of wood and Tokyo gas, is lower than usual at around 40°centigrade. This is the owner’s thoughtfulness following an increase in attendance by families with young children and in consideration of health care for the elderly. When I take a relaxing bath in this sento, I am able to warm my body and slowly banish the stiffness and stress from work.
Due to family circumstances, the current owner, who changed his career from educating challenged children to this sento business, cooperates in providing a sento experience for children’s summer camps. The owner says “the sento is a place where growing children can come into contact with others openly and learn the social rules”, and watches over the children strictly but kindly.
Suehiroyu’s late proprietor’s motto was “Simple is the best” and, accordingly, the current owner is maintaining this traditional sento with the two other members of his family.
Address: 1-2-30 Takaramachi, Katsushika-ku, Tokyo
Open: 16:00 – 23:00
Access: 10 minutes on foot from Ohanajaya Station, Keisei Line
Text and photographs: Akira Fuse.
Translation: Yoshie Hutchinson, Language Volunteer Co-talk (LVC)
(1) Irimoya – Japanese style architecture with hip roof.
(2) Miyazukuri – temple or shrine shaped Japanese architecture.
(3) Chidorihafu – a small triangular-shaped roof, which is itself attached to the inclining roof.
(4) Noren – A shop curtain
(5) Bandai – Fee collector’s elevated seat at a public bath house.
(6) Muku – Natural wood (or solid wood)