Looking for Sento – 8 (2013.11.1) Tatsumiyu

A new sento in the Fukagawa area with its shitamachi atmosphere, retains the Edo era Tatsumi name.

Entrance of Tatsumiyu

Entrance of Tatsumiyu

Tatsumi is the name of an area of reclaimed land located at the southern tip of Koto-ku; however, in the Edo era (1603-1868), the word “Tatsumi” means south east from Edo castle, and refers to around the Fukagawa area. In this area the Kiba entertainment district flourished due to the lumber business there, and there were Tatsumi-geisha(1) who attracted people with their performances and style, In contrast, north of Kiba and Monzennakacho, but still in Fukagawa, were places where samurai residences and temples were gathered, and even now, there are many scenic and historic spots, such as Kiyosumi Garden, Reiganji-temple, where famous people’s tombs etc. remain.

Bathroom bathed in sunshine

Bathroom bathed in sunshine

Tatsumiyu took over the name of the Tatsumi area, which retains its shitamachi atmosphere from the Edo era. It was established by the first proprietor, who is from the Noto peninsula, in the early Showa 20s (1945-1950). As he liked all things new, he had his sento rebuilt in the early Showa 40s (1965-1970) as a five storied reinforced concrete building which included an apartment house on the upper three floors. “I thought I had married a man who was the owner of an apartment, but he was in fact a sento proprietor whose daytime and night time routines were reversed, which was totally different from what I had thought.” laughed Chiyoko Ueda, the second generation owner’s wife, who is also from Noto.


Japanese style open-air bath (women’s)

When you go through the changing room and resting space, warmed by its wooden surroundings, and go to the bathroom, a light, large space awaits you. The ceiling is inclined, with the south side wall being higher and its upper half glazed. A large bathtub sticks out from the back wall into the centre of the bathroom.

The mosaic tile picture on the back wall in the men’s bathroom is “Under Fukagawa Mannen-bashi bridge” from the “Fugakusanjurokkei”(2) by Katsushika Hokusai(3). The picture is composed of scenery of the Sumida-gawa river with streets and houses along the river, which can be seen under the arch of the shaped bridge over the Onagi-gawa river. They carefully chose a picture which has a connection with the local area. In “Onihei hankacho”(4) Hasegawa Heizo(5), whose house was nearby, also crossed this bridge many times. Mannen-bashi bridge has changed to an iron bridge these days and its illumination in the evening is beautiful. In the women’s bathroom, there is “Gaifukaisei”(6), a picture of Mt. Fuji, and “Koshukajikazawa”(7), a picture of fishermen; both of which are among Hokusai’s most famous works. Mt. Fuji was chosen as a symbol of Japan.

There is a sauna by the bathroom; however, Tatsumiyu’s high point is the Japanese style open-air bath and water bath. The bathtub is made of stones and there is a large rest room next to a small inner garden in which is a stone sculpture which was made by the proprietor’s uncle. They are in a totally separate space from the main bathroom, and there are many people who like to take a long rest in this place.

Many customers come to Tatsumiyu from far away, as they want to enjoy the unique sento which has undergone reconstruction several times to cater for customers’ demands. Tatsumiyu is the fans’ favourite sento. Besides Chiyoko, the woman owner, the sento is run by Kazuyuki, her son, Makoto Tanaka, her son’s friend who is an employee, and a team of young part timers.

Address: 1-2-3, Miyoshi, Koto-ku, Tokyo
Telephone: 03-3641-9436
Open: 15:00 – 24:00
Closed: Monday
Access: 2 minutes walk from Kiyosumi-shirakawa station

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

(1)Geisha – A Japanese woman who is trained to entertain men with conversation, dancing and  music
(2)Fugakusanjurokkei – A work representative of Katsushika Hokusai’s “36 views of Mt. Fuji (36 original prints plus 10 later additions)
(3)Katsushika Hokusai – An ukiyoe artist in the late Edo era (1760-1849)
(4)Onihei hankacho – A historical novel based on an actual head of the special police in the Edo era
(5)Hasegawa Heizo – The main character in the novel “Onihei hankacho”
(6)Gaifukaisei – One of the representative pictures of the “36 views of Mt. Fuji”, known as “Red Fuji”
(7)Koshukajikazawa – One of the “36 views of Mt. Fuji” which shows fisherman on the banks of the River Fuji