Shiba dog Yuki plays the second generation poster girl.
Three-year old Shiba-inu dog Yuki, named for her snowy white fur (snow is yuki in Japanese), is the second generation poster girl for Gurandoyu. Every evening from 7pm she sits with the proprietor at the front desk, looking out onto the road. She welcomes individually the customers who have come in anticipation of seeing her and says hello to their dogs too. She leans forward as if asking after the health of regular customers who haven’t arrived yet. From a photograph on the wall the benevolent gaze of the first poster dog Musashi watches over her.
Fusao Hosokawa, the proprietor, was born in the town of Kamiichi-machi located at the foot of Tateyama in Toyama prefecture in 1944. He began his training in bathhouse management at the Baigetsuyu in Suginami-ku, Tokyo. His wife Hiromi’s father was also from Kamiichi-machi and ran the bathhouse Tatsunoyu in Shimo-ochiai, Shinjuku-ku, in Tokyo. The famous cartoonist Fujio Akatsuka was a frequent customer and many other well-known guests enjoyed dinner parties in a second floor room. Fusao and Hiromi got married and started their own bathhouse, Kanameyu, in Sawara City, Chiba Prefecture. In 1985 they were invited to manage an old bathhouse in Yahiro, Sumida-ku, made extensive renovations to give the place a more spacious feel and hung out their noren (1) under the spacious-sounding name “Gurandoyu”.
The building is of traditional wooden design. The modern extensions of the vestibule and lounge are decorated with delicate stained glass that can also be seen from the road. The tropical fish, birds, monkeys, lions and animals of the world are loved by both children and adults.
There are two kinds of baths, one is a seated jet bath with room for three, and the other whirlpool bath is filled with medicated water twice a week. On the day I visited it was lavender-scented. Underground water is heated with kindling for the baths. In the past they used wood chips and tree bark from sawmills in the Kiba (2) area but now scrap wood from housebuilding is burned. The proprietor is proud of the quality of water, drawn from 90 metres underground.
The masterpiece of the bathhouse is the painting of a glowing sunrise over the Tateyama mountain range(3) where the proprietor climbed in his youth. On the men’s side of the bathhouse is Oyama and on the women’s side is the majestic shape of Mount Tsurugidake. The painting was made by an expert tile artist and the tiles baked in a factory in Nagoya. It is a fine example of traditional handicrafts.
“Please come again! We’ll be waiting,” Yuki seemed to say as she followed me with her gaze until I was out on sight. The bathhouse cared for by the couple and their pet dog heals both our bodies and souls.
Address: 4-17-22 Yahiro, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Closed: twice a month, not fixed
Access: 8 minutes on foot from Yahiro station, Keisei Line
Text and photographs: Akira Fuse
Translation: Sayaka Hirano, Language Volunteer Co-talk (LVC)
(1) Noren – a traditional business curtain at the entrance
(2) Kiba – Kiba is located in Koto-ku, Tokyo and developed as a collection center for timber in the Edo era. “Ki” of Kiba means “wood” and “ba” means “place” in Japanese.
(3) Tateyama mountain range – located in the east of Toyama prefecture and in the north of Chubu-Sangaku National Park and includes Oyama mountain (3,003m) and Tsurugidake mountain(2,998m), and other mountains of similar height. It is a symbol of Toyama prefecture.