Five Tokyo sento designed by Kentaro Imai
Teaming up with the second-generation owner, whose dream had been to turn his bathhouse into a place accessible to everyone, Imai transformed Mikokuyu in Azumabashi into a completely barrier-free sento. The most visible symbol of this rebirth is the fully accessible family bath on the ground floor, which can be rented out by groups.
Kohmeisen reopened in 2014 in the heart of trendy Nakameguro. A rotenburo is available on only one side of the sento, so the men’s and women’s sides are swapped every week to allow everyone to experience rooftop bathing – a rare treat in central Tokyo.
Imai’s first bathhouse project was the wholesale renovation of this Adachi-ku sento completed in 2001. Making the most of the relatively small space, Imai added a lengthy ‘walk-through bath’ reflecting his vision of how old and cramped Tokyo sento can be turned into more open spaces.
Imai’s newest creation was completed in late 2016 way out west in Machida. Aiming to stem the flow of customers leaving Okurayu for the new ’super sento’ opened nearby, the owner hired Imai to freshen up his traditional bathhouse. The architect’s response was to cut down on, well, everything – an approach that resulted in what could be Tokyo’s most minimalist soak spot.
With its deep blue wall tiles and high ceiling, one corner of Meguro’s Chiyonoyu resembles a cave. An Imai original, this quirky bath is filled with artificially carbonated hot spring water and was designed to be a place to clear your mind. Known as a ‘meditation bath’, it’s become a familiar feature at Imai-designed sento across Tokyo.