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Looking for Sento – 19 (2015.3.6) Azuma-yokusen

Relaxing in a huge space in a “Showa Modern” atmosphere

外観 切り抜き

Retro Western style building

There is a town, which was developed as a suburban city in the Taisho era (1912-1926) on the boundary between Chuo and Matsue (formerly Higashi-komatsugawa) in Edogawa-ku, and which still remains. Although the Dojunkai (the housing for the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake victims), concrete apartment houses in Aoyama and Daikanyama are famous, the Matsue town of wooden houses located in the middle of fields was completed one year earlier. Although there is a shopping street, child care centre, tennis court and public dining hall, and welfare facilities, such as a social gathering hall etc., were built, as there was no room for a bathroom for each household in the two-storied semi-detached houses with only two rooms, the private sector sento played an important role. There is an old house which still retains the atmosphere of those days near the “Dojunkai-dori Entrance” crossing.

脱衣室2

High ceilinged changing room

After you enter the Dojunkai-dori street from the east, you will find the Azuma-yokusen(1) in a residential area where factories still remain. Azuma-yokusen was established in 1970 and both its exterior and interior are in the Showa era (1926-1989) “modern style”. The first generation owner, who was from a rice shop in Soka, used to run two sento; however, he closed the one in front of Soka station and moved to the present site and took over the name Azuma-yokusen. It was said that when this sento with its western style architecture appeared, Azuma-yokusen became so famous that the other sento around had to give up their business. “When it was established the sento was modern and was popular, but it’s gotten old now” says the second generation owner, Shouichi Hamano (born in 1931), who designed the yokusen. His wife Fujiko (born in 1930) is also from Soka.

浴室

Bathroom

The large lobby has wave shaped-like columns forming a line across the high ceiling. As arched vertically tall windows are lined up on the top part of the wall facing to the street, the lobby gets a lot of natural light. On the top part of the wall in the bathroom there is a picture of swimming tropical fish in frosted glass, which continues from one end to the other passing through both the men’s and women’s changing rooms. When you enter the bathroom, the first thing which catches your eye is a mosaic tiled picture. The design is of mermaids swimming and dancing gracefully in the water. Shouichi and Fujiko decided on this design when they went to Tajimi(2) to look for suitable mosaic tiles. As this is painted in pastel colours, it makes the customers feel relaxed. There is a medicinal bath, a sitting bath, a large and shallow bubble bath lined up next to each other. The bathtubs are full to overflowing with hot water. The sauna uses a gas far-infrared radiation system and is free of charge, which is unusual in Tokyo. You can enjoy this along with the water bath, which uses ground water.

When the sumo tournament is on television, customers enjoy watching it on the sofa, sitting next to each other in the large lobby. Then the lobby becomes an important place for communication within the community.

Azuma-yokusen
Address: 2-34-2 Chuo, Edogawa-ku, Tokyo
Telephone: 03-3654-0034
Open: 14:00 – 22:00
Closed: Wednesday
Access: 3 minutes by bus from Shinkoiwa station. Get off the bus at “NTT-mae”

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

Note-
(1)Yokusen – Another word for Sento; originally a public bathhouse for people who did not have a bath at home.
(2)Tajimi – A town which is famous for Mino pottery which can be used for mosaic tiles