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Looking for Sento-29 (2016.2.5) Fujinoyu

Public bath founded by a timber merchant at Fukagawa

 

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Fujinoyu

Mt. Fuji has been a religious object since ancient times. In Edo city there were so many Fujiko(1) that it was said there were 808 of them. But there were difficulties to make the religious pilgrimage to Mt. Fuji: it took 8 days walk there and back, which was difficult for elderly people, children and sick people, and it was banned for women to enter the sacred area of Mt. Fuji. Therefore, Fujizuka(2) were created in the grounds of close-by Shinto shrines. While the number of Fujizuka in shitamachi has decreased, Sunamura Fujizuka in the precincts of Tomigaoka Hachimangu shinto shrine remains. The Fujiko named Yamakichimarusu Omizuko, which originated in the Edo period, still worships it and holds a ceremony announcing the start of the climbing season of it on July 1 every year. The shrine is commonly known as Moto (former) Hachiman shrine among local people, because the Fukagawa Tomioka Hachimangu shrine was located there until the Kanei era (1624 – 1643) in the Edo period (1603 – 1868).

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men’s bathroom

Hideo Ato who was from Nagano prefecture (born in 1885; Meiji 18) used to run a timber wholesale business at Fukagawa Toyozumi. He made the Fujinoyu bathhouse near the Moto Hachiman shrine in 1930 (Showa 5) to utilize wood end plates, a byproduct of the timber business. He left the management of the bathhouse to one of his relatives. After his house at Toyozumi had burned down during the Great Tokyo Air Raid of 9 March 1945 he moved to Fujinoyu and decided to run the bathhouse by himself. Since Hideo’s successor died 5 years ago, the successor’s wife Mitsuko (84) has been running the bathhouse as the third-generation owner, with the help of her daughter Yoshiko and daughter-in-law Masayo.

When the war devastation had struck the previous bathhouse building, soldiers from nearby barracks and neighboring people had desperately battled to stop the fires from destroying Fujinoyu and it was saved. The current building replaced the previous one in 1967 (Showa 42). Trees around the bathhouse naturally display the seasonal colors. On both sides of the main entrance there are silk trees and sasanqua trees. In front of the men’s bathroom there are vintage azaleas on a miniature rock hill, whilst in front of the women’s bathroom there are Japanese maples.

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Fujizuka

The back walls of the bathrooms have mural paintings by a bathhouse mural artist, Morio Nakajima. He painted Mt. Fuji on the men’s back wall, and the Tateyama mountain range on the women’s back wall. Lined up in the bathhouse are a round bathtub with whirling hot water, a bathtub with electric current flowing through the water, and a reclining style jet bath. They use tap water heated by gas. The temperature of the hot water is 42°centigrade. The medicated water is popular.

Before reclaimed land was made, there was the Sunamachi swimming beach in front of the bathhouse. At that time, women who had finished catching sand-worms in the Arakawa River came to this bathhouse late at night, and the neighboring factories’ employees used this bathhouse as if it were the factories’ own bath.

“Come to think of it, there used to be all sorts of customers” Mitsuko thinks back fondly on the old days.

At Fujinoyu, run by the all-female staff, the changing rooms are neatly ordered and are full of their subtle thoughtfulness. Followers of public bathhouses are irresistibly attracted to its comfortable atmosphere after taking a bath.

 

Fujinoyu
Address: 8-20-16 Higashisuna, Koto-ku, Tokyo
Telephone: 03-3644-1771
Open: 15:30 – 22:30
Closed: Wednesday (except on the 5th Wednesday of the month)
Access: 2 minutes walk from Sodegaura bus stop on the bus route starting from Toyocho-station

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

 Note-
(1) Fujiko: Shinto sect dedicated to the worship of Mt. Fuji and they save money for making pilgrimages to and around Mt. Fuji.
(2) Fujizuka: Mound made in the image of Mt. Fuji. It is also the object of worship like Mt. Fuji.