Ultimate players’ holy place
Young men and women wearing sportswear, one after another, head for an impressive building which looks like a temple. Ultimate is a game like American football, however, this is a new sport using a plastic disk instead of a ball. The players have two holy places. One is a green space ground alongside the Fujigawa river in Shizuoka prefecture, and the other is Tsurunoyu, near the Edogawa river sports ground which they use for their practice. Both of them have a “Mt. Fuji”.
Kiyoshi Tsuruoka, the first generation owner, was from Boso (Chiba prefecture) and trained at a sento in Yoshiwara and elsewhere, and then after the Second World War he ran Haginoyu in Higashi-Yotsugi. In Showa 31 (1956), he established Tsurunoyu on farmland in Kitakoiwa. The name of the sento originates from his family name. The second generation owner, Mitsuo Nakayama, [born in Showa 23 (1948)] was born into the family of a scaffolding builder in Fukagawa. After he graduated from his last school, while he was working he was aiming to be a guitarist in a band, but when he was 29 years old he married Reiko Tsuruoka, the second oldest daughter of the first generation owner. Soon after that Kiyoshi Tsuruoka died, and while Mitsuo Nakayama was struggling with the sento’s complicated piping equipment, he suddenly became the second generation owner. At present, Mitsuo’s son Fumihisa is aiming to become the third generation owner and is currently in charge of the boiler.
The building is still the same as when it was first built, with a large-sized “temple and shrine” style architecture, which has a double Hafu (1). On the Onigawara (2) the name Tsuruoka has been inscribed. The changing room is in a traditional style where there is a timbered Bandai (3) and a stately Oriage-gotenjo (4). The bathroom went through a major refurbishment and has been enlarged to 4-ken-haba (about 7.27m wide). The painted picture on the back wall is the work of an up-and-coming woman painter, Mizuki Tanaka. There are three kinds of bathtubs: deep and shallow bathtubs with body massage equipment, and a daily special medicinal bathtub. They use well water, which is heated by oil. This sento’s popular Rotenburo (5) is made of stones and it is large like a swimming pool. The world top class Ultimate players make themselves at home here together with regular customers. From the men’s bathroom, you can enjoy a view of the chimney rising towards the open sky. There is an Azumaya-fu (6) roof in the women’s bathroom, which has a sophisticated hot spring atmosphere.
Tsurunoyu is popular because of the three ladies sitting on the Bandai: the wife of the first generation owner, who died three years ago, and her two daughters, Yoshino and Reiko. “I have continued to come here for 40 years”, said a regular customer laughing. Local children come here on their “elementary school children’s exploration of the town” and “junior high school students’ work place experience”. The town’s sento remains very much alive.
Address: 7-4-16 Kitakoiwa, Edogawa-ku, Tokyo
Open: 14:50 – 0:00
Access: 5 minutes walk from Keiseikoiwa Station
Text and photographs: Akira Fuse
Translation: Yoshie Hutchinson, Language Volunteer Co-talk (LVC)
(1)Hafu – gables which are the triangular decorations you see on temples, shrines, and castles, and are mostly decorative and often not necessary.
(2)Onigawara – ridge-end roof tile with a demon face
(3)Bandai – traditional elevated seat at a public bathhouse to collect the entrance fee and watch over the changing room.
(4)Oriage-gotenjo – coved lattice-ceiling
(5)Rotenburo – open-air bath
(6)Azumaya-fu – gazebo style