Looking for Sento – 13 (2014.7.11) Hakusanyu

Pioneer of artificially carbonated bath 



The Toyosu station area, with its forest of office and apartment towers, is representative of Tokyo Bay Side as a whole. Originally reclaimed land intended for the disposal of debris from the Great Kanto Earthquake, the area became an industrial zone and then a distribution centre. The development has continued with the construction of the new fish market, Olympic facilities, commercial buildings and residences.

The unique Hakusanyu, its frontage faced with a mosaic tile picture, lies across the Toyosu canal in Edagawa. The name Hakusanyu derives from Hakusan Shrine in Hakui City, Ishikawa prefecture, the home town of the founder. Shortly after the war the founder was apparently asked to create a simplified bathhouse on a school grounds and has been open for business at the current location since Showa 30 (1955). The bathhouse is managed by the Shirota family; second-generation Toshiro, born in Showa 17, ( 1942 ) and his wife Toyoko, together with their mother Tamae and son Toshihiro, who served for 13 years in the Maritime Self-Defence Force. The proprietor of the bathhouse Atamiyu, previously introduced here, is Toshiro’s elder sister.


carbonated water spring (men’s bathroom)

Naturally carbonated water springs are plentiful in Europe and have long been appreciated for their recuperative and medicinal properties. They are also used as a source of mineral water. Highly concentrated carbon dioxide is pumped into hot water in an artificially carbonated spring.


red Mt.Fuji (women’s bathroom)

In Heisei 16 (2004), Hakusanyu became the first bathhouse in Tokyo to introduce such an artificially carbonated spring. To retain the carbonation, the water temperature is set at a slightly low 38 degrees centigrade allowing customers to enjoy a leisurely soak. After relaxing for a while one’s skin becomes covered with bubbles of gas; it is said that the bubbles permeate the skin and bring relief from muscle fatigue and aches and pains. The bath is also popular with ladies for its supposed beautifying properties. The plain hot water baths have sitting tubs with body massage and screw jet baths, which are set to 42 degrees centigrade. The floor of the passage to the women’s bathroom is set with pebbles so customers can do reflexology on their feet. The back wall has a rare etsuke tairu-ga (1) depiction of a red Mount Fuji.

The men’s bath has a view of a mountain village backed by snowy peaks. The bathhouse is increasingly frequented by seniors using special discounts, long distance truck drivers for the distribution centres and runners who work in the area. It’s amusing to try to envisage what kind of customers will visit from now in the ever-changing bay area.

Address: 1-6-15 Edagawa, Koto-ku, Tokyo
Telephone: 03-3645-0862
Open: 15:00 – 24:00
Closed: Saturday
Access:10 minutes walk from Toyosu Station

Text and photographs: Akira Fuse
Translation: Tomomi Shitaka, Language Volunteer Co-talk (LVC)

(1)Etsuke tairu-ga – Art of creating images by assembling small pieces of painted tiles