An old public bath which has been loved by musicians and actors.
Text & Photo / Kenta Baba
Since 1920, there is a sento (public bath) called Asahi-yu which has lasted almost 100 years in Saiin, Kyoto.
People are talking secretly about this public bath which has a big favor of famous actors and musicians who come to Kyoto for shooting a film and events.
You might pass through Sento (public bath) when you come from Hankyu-Saiin station toward Asahi-yu. (I totally did.)
This is their landmark here, and you need to step into a little alley to go to its entrance.
There you go. Here is the entrance.
Why does this entrance face to the little alley instead of being on a big street?
The reason is Asahi-yu is much older than this big street.
It was all rice fields and farm lands around Nishioji-dori 95 years ago and it started having a tram then it became much larger than that time and still Asahi-yu has been watching all these changes right here.
Their fireplace and all the measurements are facing on the big street and it shows their long history.
This is their old-fashioned way to make a hot water by using sawdust. Sometimes, people stop by here to warm themselves.
The third Asahi-yu owner, Mr.Katsuaki Hayashi. Mr.Sanjiro Minato who is the owner of Umeyu which I interviewed last time also came here often when he was a student.
What is the reason why actors and musicians love this place so much?
In this neighborhood, there is a studio owned by Shochiku-geino (famous entertainment company), and therefore this bath is well-known all the actors who belongs that company. Recently, Mr.Terao Susumu becomes their regular customer.
I totally feel that the reason is not only the distance between here and a studio, but also things I hear from Mr.Hayashi and his wife, and moreover the quality of the bath itself.
The quality is superb!
Large sauna room!
Cold water bath after sauna.
All the baths are not shallow at all and you can relax very well.
No.1 reason is... people are very kind and warm.
Not only the bath is warm, but also everyone at this bath gives us a warm feeling.
First of all, when you see a chair for one of their regular customers who has a handicapped leg, you definitely feel love so much right?
Moreover, this is something that you will be surprised. They offer you a free towel, soap, shampoo and all the equipments you need for bath! I have never seen such a kind public bath ever in my life.
There are shampoo, rinse, 2 towels, soap, and body towel as a set.
If you pay 1,000 yen for having a bath including this, then you might feel just O.K. but it only cost 430 yen including sauna cost as well. Amazingly cheap!
Free massage chair and dryer. (These are installed only at Men’s room. They consider to have some in Women’s room near future.)
They open from 2:10 p.m.
I wonder why they open from 2:10 p.m. It is like very odd number, isn’t it? Usually, sento opens from 3:00 p.m. or 3:30 p.m. I ask them why they open this time.
The reason is Mr.Hayashi’s wife has been doing it for their customers. Before, their customers waited outside till they open at 3:00 p.m. but Mr.Hayashi’s wife felt bad for them so that she started opening 1 minute earlier, 5 minutes earlier and now it becomes 2:10 p.m. Her kindness piles up and it becomes a regular opening time now.
An event place for Saiin music festival.
About 10 years ago, Asahi-yu has been dedicating their place to Saiin music festival. Mr.Hayashi told me that this place had a period that they had merchants inside, and some people did events here at a dressing room when sento was a huge trend, so that when the organizers of Saiin music festival came here, he just said, “Absolutely O.K.!”
They also support the music culture in Kyoto not only this event but also all music cultures and this wall becomes a flier space for everyone who loves music.
If you would like to ask them to put your flier, then why don’t you ask them?
Don’t be surprised, even though you have tattoos, they welcome you kindly! It's rare in Japan. You might also see policemen and people who has tattoos talking each other here at this bath room. What a wonderful place. Status has nothing to do with this bath room.
You just come here without anything and have a really good bath. When you stop by Saiin station or just about going through this street, why don’t you go inside and have a really good one because you don’t have to have anything!
ADDRESS : 9-1 Saiin-higashi Imada-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto city
PHONE : +81(0)75-311-4833
HOURS : 2:10 p.m. - 12:30 a.m.
CLOSED : Friday
twitter : http://twitter.com/hozugangster