神楽坂 昼

Feel the nostalgia from the Edo period

Kagurazaka is part of Shinjuku district, in the middle of Tokyo. Naturally, you’ll find many large chain stores along the streets, but when you’ll walk down the narrow, paved back streets, you’ll experience the atmosphere from the Edo period, when Kagurazaka was a red light district.
At the peak of the Meiji era(1868~1912), there were over 700 geisha working at local tea houses (ochaya). Today, there are still many expensive Japanese restaurants and historic spots. Some geisha houses still discretely survive in the back alleys.

GeishaGeisha are commonly mistaken as prostitutes. Actually, geisha are entertainers: they sing, dance, have friendly conversations, and provide hospitality and companionship for guests in expensive restaurants.

The history of Sento (public bath)

At the end of the 12th Century,  sento appeared in Kyoto and became popular 300 years later(1603~1863). It was co-ed bathing up until 1879 and more sento were built due to the growing population after World War II, with almost 100% of Japanese people using it as a necessity. Nowadays, most people have a bath at home and the amount of people who use sento has decreased. That is why it’s harder to find sento today.

Atami-yu, the bathhouse that traditionally uses firewood to prepare hot water.

The stairs to Atami-yu are in a narrow street that feels like a path for cats.

昼・熱海坂・上 - コピー

昼・熱海坂・下

It has been said that geisha originally bathed and got ready for work at Atami-yu. The street is also called “geisha-komichi” (‘the path of geisha’), and you can smell the burning firewood while walking this area.

昼外観 横

They have been using firewood and charcoal to heat water since they opened in 1954. Its exterior has an old architectural roof called Chidori Hafu and it’s often used as a filming location for television.

靴箱

The right side is for men, and the left side is for women. Put your shoes in the box and bring the wooden key with you.

番台からの風景

There’s a counter called “Bandai” in front of the entrance that’s located between the men and women’s baths. They collect bath fees, sell beverages and cosmetics, watch over people, and engage in friendly conversation with locals. The sento is a family business, so you’ll see either the husband or wife sitting at the counter. 460 yen is the current fee for adults, children are also welcome and there’s even a changing table for babies.

タオル

Surprisingly enough, they will let you use their towels for free and shower gel and shampoo available inside the bath, so you don’t need to bring anything with you. It’s very rare to find these kinds of sento in Tokyo.

脱衣所

The clean changing room with light shining in from the roof.

中庭

You can see a small garden inside the men’s changing room. The wooden carved Kannon-sama and the golden fish will make you feel at peace.

湯・窓・明るい

The wall painting that is hung over the men and women’s bath is stunning! It shows Mt. Fuji viewed from Enoshima. The picture in the sento has a history in itself and you can always find pictures of Mt. Fuji in any sento.
There are golden fish and scenery of the Alps drawn on the tiles, so you will feel as if you are bathing outside. This is typical for Japanese sento.

モモテツ

The bucket they have is not Kerorin, but has another advertisement for the popular Japanese game, Momotetsu. It’s very rarely seen in Tokyo’s public baths.

How to bathe.

You can find English subtitled instructions next to the bandai, but it’s better to know how to bath before going. You can also read our article: The Art and Manner of Bathing in Japan

銭湯四か条

HOW TO SENTO

① You need to take a shower before soaking yourself in the bathtub. The old Japanese way of washing uses a tub and a wash cloth to wash your body. Sit on a chair and scrub your body with the wash cloth!

シャワー

② The water tap is divided into cold and hot, so mix them to your preferred temperature.
③ After washing your body, soak into the bathtub. You can’t bring your towel in, and if you have long hair, you have to tie it up with a hairband.
④ If the water is too hot, you can add cold water from the water tap in the bathtub. By immersing myself in hot water, I feel all my fatigue washed away! It also feels good to bath repeatedly by cooling your body with cold water.
⑤ When leaving the bath you should dry off a bit, so that the changing room doesn’t become inundated with water.

脱衣所~湯

⑥ After bathing, you can enjoy a beverage. The typical Japanese way is to drink milk is with your hand on your hip.

牛乳

⑦ There’s an old hairdryer available for 30 yen, as well as a more modern one for the same price.

旧式ドライヤー

During the evening, Atami-yu becomes sort of a community center for the local people. Sento is no longer a necessity, but plays an important role as a place for neighborhood people to socialize (see our article: Nude Friendship at the Bathhouse). It’s also a place where kids can learn public manners. Why not experience the old world manners of Japan at Atami-yu?

夜 外観

Bathing in hot water feels so good! After that, why not have a drink in one of the many bars and izakaya of Kagurazaka?

夜・熱海坂・下

If you liked this sento, what about trying an onsen in the middle of Tokyo?

Map

3-5-4 Kagurazaka, Shinjyuku-ku, Tokyo

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AUTHOR

Muppie

Muppie

Writer

An indeterminate life form that was born in Kanagawa Prefecture, I have a passion for art and music. I will write about Japan's nightlife, art, party culture, and the best and most easily accessible locations to visit near Tokyo.

Information

Address 3-5-4 Kagurazaka, Shinjyuku-ku, Tokyo
Hours 15:00~1:00 [Fee] 460 yen for Adult. 180 yen for kid under 12. 80 yen for kid under 6.
Access 7 min by walk from B3 exit of Iidabashi station. 8 min by walk from B3 exit of JR Iidabashi station. 6min by walk from A3 exit of Ushigome Kagurazaka
Phone 03-3260-1053