Looking for Sento – 16 (2014.10.24) The Second Kotobukiyu

The birthplace of 「Oyu no Fuji」


External view of the Second Kotobukiyu

「Oyu no Fuji」is a popular character of the Edogawa-ku branch of the Tokyo Bathhouse Association. The character was designed by an art student who has been in charge of planning the bathhouse’s logo and noren(1). The wide variety of Oyu no Fuji goods available can be obtained by joining stamp rallies while the popularity of the costumed character has been increasing owing to his participation in various ward events.

The founder, Sadakichi Sasaki, was a bathhouse operator from Toyama prefecture who opened a branch called Tokiwayu in Nakameguro, Tokyo in 1953. He was newly-married and his bride Toshiko, from Ninomiya, Ishikawa prefecture became the proprietress. In 1964, the year of the Tokyo Olympics, the Second Kotobukiyu was built in Edogawa-ku, in an area of factories, public housing and a shopping arcade. The area was expected to develope in the future.

「Oyu no Fuji」goods

「Oyu no Fuji」goods

The second proprietor, Kazuyuki Shigihara, worked for many years at a major printing company until he took over the bathhouse in 2001 with his wife Taeko, the second daughter of the original proprietor. At 45, he was a late-bloomer for a bathhouse manager. The building, behind which stands a handsome, thick chimney, is constructed of fine quality wood. At the entrance we are greeted by a variety of seasonal noren.

(from the left) Kazuyuki Kamohara, Toshiko and Taeko

(from the left) Kazuyuki Kamohara, Toshiko and Taeko

The airy, fresh interior was remodeled to be barrier free some time ago and the bathhouse also serves as a day-care centre called Kenyuukan until 3pm five days a week. Water for the bubble bath, ultrasound bath, medicated bath and the hot stone slab bath is heated by burning firewood. The picture of Mount Fuji, which includes Oyu no Fuji, was painted by a young female bathhouse mural artist, Mizuki Tanaka. She was commissioned in order to support young artists.

The title of Meister can be obtained through a stamp rally, there is also a New York (a play on the words “nyuyoku” – to enter the bathhouse) vaudeville event, as well as half-price healthy long-life bathing coupons, and a children’s “back scrubbing group” held on Respect For The Aged Day.,

The Edogawa branch earned the Ministry Of Internal Affairs and Communications Prize For Local Revitalisation in 2013 for its work in preserving bathhouse culture and revitalising the local area, the first time ever that a bathhouse association had won the award. Man of ideas Mr. Shigihara is always busy devising new plans; that he is able to do this is thanks to Toshiko and Saeko.

The Second Kotobukiyu
Address: 1-46-12 Edogawa, Edogawa-ku, Tokyo
Telephone: 03-3670-6195
Open: 16:00 – 23:00
Closed: Thursday, Friday
Access: 12 minutes on foot from Mizue station, Toei Shinjuku Line

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

(1)Noren – a traditional business curtain at the entrance