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Traditional public bathhouse Sento opens branch in Harajuku, Tokyo’s youth culture, fashion hub

Thanks to Kosugiyu
Interior of Kosugiyu Harajuku

A public sento bathhouse has opened in Harajuku, the center of Japanese youth culture and fashion in Tokyo, with the aim of passing on traditional bathing culture to the next generation.

The bathhouse is located on the first basement floor of the new Tokyu Plaza Harajuku commercial complex, nicknamed ‘Harakado’.

The new bathhouse, called Kosugiyu Harajuku, is a branch of Kosugiyu, a long-standing company in Suginami Ward, Tokyo. The facility was put into use on April 17 and was open exclusively to residents and workers in the Jingumae District, where the commercial complex is located, during the pre-opening period through Sunday. The bathhouse opened to the public at certain hours on Monday.

“I will strive to make it a community sento in Harajuku that many people love,” said Yusuke Hiramatsu, 44, a third-generation owner of Kosugiyu.

Kosugiyu was founded in 1933 in the Koenji Ward of Suginami Ward, Tokyo. The building with a classic ‘miyazukuri’ design has been registered by the central government as a tangible cultural asset.

Hiramatsu became owner of the bathhouse in 2016 and took over the following year. He has created several community-based human networks and unique projects based on the bathhouse, such as a project using vacant apartments and an online salon to revive sento culture.

“In the eight years since I became an owner, I have realized that sento is in high demand in society,” said Hiramatsu. “At the same time, it was difficult because I was not able to set up a financial foundation to maintain Sento and pass it on to future generations.”

Subsequently, Hiramatsu received an offer from Tokyu Land Corp., the operator of the Harakado commercial complex, to open a sento in the Harajuku complex.

It was 2021 and the coronavirus pandemic was raging. Hiramatsu found the offer challenging and decided to accept it, thinking he would prove that public bathhouse culture could boost the community’s economy. He then spent three years designing the sento.

Public bath1 1
The Yomiuri Shimbun
Yusuke Hiramatsu, the third-generation owner of Kosugiyu, says he wants the new sento in Tokyo’s Harajuku district to be loved by people in the community.

Steamy dreams of Mount Fuji

The Harajuku sento has six bathtubs, three for men and women. In addition to a ‘milk bath’ and ‘alternating hot and cold baths’, both specialties of Kosugiyu, it also has an indoor area for relaxing. A must-see is the painting on the wall of Mount Fuji, a typical image found at sento, created by an artist specialized in sento paintings.

The theme of the first basement floor of the Harakado commercial complex is a ‘city with a public bath in the middle’. Cosmetic companies, sporting goods manufacturers and breweries have joined as partners so that visitors can enjoy their products in addition to bathing.

Hiramatsu said: “Communal public bathhouses created in collaboration with companies will become a new example.”

Kosugiyu Harajuku, which is located underground, did not meet the criteria for traditional ‘ordinary public bathhouses’ but was approved under the criteria for ‘other public bathhouses’, including ‘super sento’ luxury public bathhouses. Still, the cost is ¥520 for adults, ¥200 for children aged 6 to 11, and ¥100 for children under 6, which is comparable to Tokyo city government fees for public bathhouses.

Since Harajuku is a mecca for youth culture, the new bathhouse is expected to attract young people who have never been to the traditional public sento bathhouses, and foreign tourists.

“I hope Kosugiyu Harajuku will become a gateway to public bathhouse culture for a wide range of people,” Hiramatsu said.

Kosugiyu Harajuku is open from 7am to 11pm, but is open to the public from 11am to 6pm. The operating hours of 7:00 AM to 11:00 AM and 6:00 PM to 11:00 PM are exclusive for residents, workers and people attending schools or staying in hotels in Jingumae and neighboring districts. The admission policy may change from August.



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