A renovated sento that all the family can enjoy together.
The Shinozaki green park project dates back to before the Second World War. After it had been completed, military facilities, farmland reform and residential land development had all been involved, and although the scale of Shinozaki Park had been reduced, the playground and multi-purpose open space were maintained. The place has become a valuable green space used as a playground or for strolling along the riverbed of the Edogawa river.
In 1965 when this area was farmland, as houses were being built little by little, the first proprietor established Shonoyu. The eldest san, Hitoshi Onuki (born in 1950), continued this sento business for forty years, but decided to close it in 2010. Since then, with his daughter, he looked into the origins of the sento, studied about the spirit of Buddhism and the Japanese mind. During this time he fully realized the importance of the role of sento when the Great East Japan earthquake struck, and made a firm resolution to travel throughout Japan to research the ideal sento, which customers might demand, with his son Takeshi, who had no hesitation in taking over the sento business. In this the way, this sento was revived as Shorakunoyu in 2013.
When you pass under the noren(1) of this building with its modern Japanese style exterior, you find yourself in a spacious lobby, where through the big lattice windows, you are saturated by soft natural light. On entering the bathroom, there is a bathtub installed for kakeyu(2), which is unusual for the Kanto region. Behind this, you can see several different types of bathtubs indoors and outdoors. Firstly, at the side of exterior wall closest to you there is a milky white coloured “silkyu” bath which is made from micro bubbles. Underwater lights change the hot water into seven different colours. This is followed by a bedrock spring, a floor bubble bathtub and an electric current bath. Sento lovers are delighted by the stong current of the jet bath which is located at the furthest back of the bathroom. Customers who are taking a long bath seem to enjoy their conversation in the manmade carbonated spring. When you go out through the glass door, there is an open-air rock bath in the Japanese style inner garden. This is the most popular place in this sento. Next to this there is a cold water bath and a sauna bath. Although the water they use is ground water, which contains a lot of calcium, they have installed a new device to soften the water.
Although on weekdays there are a lot of bicycles of regular local customers lined up in front of the sento, for customers from further away there is ample parking space for twenty cars. At the weekend it bustles with young parents with small children. Here, the ideal sento has been realized. Takeshi, the third generation proprietor, is already polishing his next ideas to devise more ways for creating a sento which families can enjoy and a new style of sento business.
Address: 2-12-16 Kamishinozaki, Edogawa-ku, Tokyo
Open: 14:30 – 22:30
Closed: Thursday and the third Wednesday
Access: 8 minutes walk from Shinozaki Station
Text and photographs: Akira Fuse
Translation: Yoshie Hutchinson, Language Volunteer Co-talk (LVC)
(1)Noren – a traditional business curtain at entrance
(2)Kakeyu – to dash hot water on one’s body to clean it just before you enter the bath tub or leave the bathroom.