The third generation owner is a Meister of Kusuriyu
Medicinal baths have been popular since the Edo era (1603-1867). In the Edo era, there were “Regenerated Hot Springs”, using yunohana (1) brought from hot springs, and gotenyu (2), using original hot water carried from hot springs. A medicinal bath using gomokuhasso (3) leaves and bark from Koishikawa botanical garden, grown by the Shogunate family, was also popular.
There is a sento downtown, which uses familiar ingredients, such as citron, fig, willow, udo, mugwort, plantain, leaf of the Japanese radish, buckwheat flour, pine needle, Japanese cedar, and rice bran.
The street in front of Yakushiyu was originally the Hikifune River. The area bustled with the common Edo worshippers who visited yakushi located at Higashi-yotsugi in Katsushika-ku in Tokyo where the Tokugawa-shogunate used to visit to pray. The name of the sento might originate from Yakushisama(1). Saburo Naganuma (born in 1913) was from Nishikanbara, Niigata prefecture. After training in the Tokyo area, he acquired “Yakushiyu” in 1953. At the same time he also used to run “Kotobukiyu” at Ueno and “Haginoyu” at Negishi. Currently, the sento is run by the second generation owner, Kouzaburo (born in 1952) and his wife Michiko, and their first son, the third generation member, Shuzo (born in 1975), his wife Kanako, and their third son Ryozo (born in 1979). The second son, Yuzo is in charge of “Kotobukiyu “.
In 1988 the sento was remodeled as a modern building. Along the wall dividing the men’s and women’s bathrooms there are deep and shallow bath tubs on both sides. In the shallow bath tubs, there are micro-vibration and supersonic waves. There are infrared ray saunas and narrow cold water bath tubs at the back of both bathrooms. The scenic background picture is made of etsuketairu (4). The scenery in the men’s bath is of the beaches in the South Seas. The women’s is of famous scenery in Europe. The hot water is soft water heated by firewood and heavy fuel oil. The temperature of the hot water is 42.5 degrees centigrade.
As a Meister of Kusuriyu, in the previous year the number of Shuzo “Daily Special” Kusuriyu rose to 124 different kinds. Among these, deep-ocean water, chili peppers and sky mint are popular. Using these bath agents, the tower bath changes its color and fragrance in turn, like the Skytree’s illuminations change. The colour changes also include Cherry Blossoms, Christmas, Halloween and Tanabata festival (5). As an event to attract customers, each day they put one from several kinds of herbal medicine in the bath and certify those customers who take a certain number of these baths as “pharmacists”. And also, as another event, they put 10 different kinds of Japanese sake, rice wine, each at a different time, in the bath, at the same time distributing some sake to the customers to drink. He also sells original blend “Sumida Konjaku Yugatari Series” bath powder. Information about Kusuriyu is available on its Website.
Since the Skytree has come to tower above the shops in front of it, the surrounding area has regenerated and become lively. Possibly as a result, the number of customers at Yakushiyu has increased after midnight.
Address: 3-46-10 Mukojima, Sumida-ku,Tokyo
Closed: Wednesday (except if a national holiday: closed the following day)
Access: 3minutes walk from Tokyo Skytree Station
Text and photographs: Akira Fuse
Translation: Kaori Tajima, Language Volunteer Co-talk (LVC)
(1) Yunohana – Hot spring mineral deposit (resembling flowers)
(2) Gotenyu – Medicinal bath only used by upper class people, such as the Shogun’s family
(3) Gomokuhasso – The oldest Japanese bath using additives mixed from five kinds of medicinal plants and eight kinds of medicinal herbs.
(4) Etsuketairu – Tiles decorated with a coloured picture.
(5) Tanabata festival – The Star Festival.