Reviving the Sento. Repurposing Public Bath Spaces.

In the Moto-Asakusa area tucked between rows of Buddhist altar stores and apartment buildings is a small sign with handwritten Chinese characters that read Hinode-yu. Duck into the small door and you'll find Yuichi Tamura sitting quietly reading a book. A sign hangs on the door to the farthest point with the character for “otoko” or men. “Onna”, women, is upstairs. There is a small drink fridge to the left of the counter and in the seat next to the lockers, an old man sits reading a newspaper. Tamura smiles to greet you as you enter the store.

From first glance, Hinode-yu, is just like every other small family-owned “sento” or public bath, filled with older Japanese men and women, family members, and business men, coming to take a bath after a long day's work. Due to fact that baths have become common place in the household, sento culture has been disappearing as the original need for public baths has gone away and small sentos, such as this one, have become a thing of the past. Tamura, whose family has run this small family owned business for four generations, wanted to do what he could to change this and thus he founded the movement, “Save the Sento.”

Tamura’s idea was to turn the public bath experience into something akin to going out to eat at a restaurant with family and friends, a break from the mundane schedule of everyday life, a part of the local community surrounding it. He wanted to make the “sento” a place that came back to the forefront as an essential part of the everyday life of the Japanese people. So how, do you bring what has become obsolete back to the forefront? Repurpose it.

In 2016, Tamura received an inquiry from a group of people interested in doing a dance event in Hinode-yu. While he was initially a bit concerned about the complaints from local people, the two groups quickly figured out a solution to this problem called Silent Fes, a dance party where all participants listen to music through headphones. A silent dance party inside the baths was so popular that tickets almost instantaneously sold out, leaving both parties with no idea what to do. So they decided to keep at it, adding a lecture style talk session series called Hadaka no Gakko or “Naked School,” and from there Tamura has consistently recieved more inquiries to use his space.

While these events have brought Hinode-yu a lot of attention for Tamura’s inventive use of the “sento” space as a community hub, his main goal isn’t to promote his own shop. He aims to promote the culture of “sento” and bring it back as a local space for all people to enjoy, whether that be Hinode-yu, or your own local community sento.

2-10-3 Moto-Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo-to, 111-0041
OPEN 15:00~0:00
Last Call 23:40
CLOSED Every Wednesday

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