It was here the “soft water” Sento started
It seems that he wanted to build a Sento that would stack up against any museum. 26 years ago, a railroad diorama as big as 9 tatami mats, with its HO gauge (36.2mm of a railway width) and all brass-made trains that are coveted by all diorama fans, was made for customers’ pleasure at the Sento. However, “by the time I realized it, a part of the datsuishitsu (1) had been taken over by model trains,” said Madam Eiko of Tomonoyu with a smile.
Tomonoyu is located on the corner of the six-forked road at the crossing of Chiba-kaido Street and Shibamata-kaido Street heading south from Koiwa station on Shouwa-dori Ave. The first owner was Kenjiro Iwasaki from Wajima, who used to manage Taishoyu in front of Goi station in Chiba prefecture, and who bought Tomonoyu in 1955 as well. At that time Iwasaki was too busy with the Sento business to take care of his baby son, and had no choice but to surround the baby’s futon (2) with a railroad and let the model trains do the baby sitting. Hisao Iwasaki (born in 1949) was brought up in this way, and became a volleyball player throughout high-school, university and a business corporation famous for its volleyball team. When he was a director of the volleyball team he married a female player, Eiko, and inherited Tomonoyu. And so their three sons also followed him in playing volleyball. Hisao is known to the nation as the “Father of the three Iwasaki brothers.”
Another of this sento’s nationally–known features is its soft water bath. Though the hardness in the ground water was originally high and severely damaged the facilities, in 1984 on a plumber’s advice, as a trial they installed an industrial water softening device, then customers’ skin happened to become smooth and feel comfortably warm, and it even had an effect on atopy and the sento became popular as it was recommended by doctors. Across the country customers and people connected with the Sento business are said to visit here to see the nation’s first soft water bath.
At the same time the Sento was renovated and the bandai (3) turned into a front desk. Here there is the control panel for the model trains inside the front desk, and staff are able both to respond to customers and to operate the trains. In the bathroom, lined up along the back wall are a micro-bubble bath, a body jet bath, a denkiburo (4), a waterfall bath, and a reclining bath. A Sauna and a cold water bath are located on the entrance side. They heat the soft water with logs and gas. The haikeiga (5) depicts a pretty circus in a forest, which children are delighted by.
Tomonoyu is famous for its railroad panorama hall and soft water bath. In its lobby and datsuishitsu are displayed photographs of railroads taken by customers.
Address: 5-1-3 Higashikoiwa, Edogawa-ku,Tokyo
Closed: Tuesday (open on public holidays)
Access: 10 minutes walk from JR Koiwa Station
Text and photographs: Akira Fuse
Translation: Liangmei, Language Volunteer Co-talk (LVC)
(1) Datsuishitsu – changing room
(2) Futon – bed
(3) Bandai – traditional stand to collect entrance fee and watch changing room
(4) Denkiburo – bathtub with electric current through the water
(5) Haikeiga – a background mural painting