Recently restored by architect Kentaro Imai, Bunkayokusen (文化浴泉) is what’s known as a designer sento. Concerned about the survival of the sento tradition, Kentaro has become a specialist in renovating public baths, hoping to revive interest – and his efforts are paying off as younger people flock to these more modern baths. Kentaro gives each sento he works on a second life, integrating chic details while preserving the traditional atmosphere – in Bunkayokusen’s case, features such as its remarkable wooden ceiling, mosaic wall and mural of Mt Fuji. The mural was painted by Morio Nakajima, one of only three remaining sento mural painters in Japan, who usually focus on images of Mt Fuji because people like to bathe at the ‘foot’ of the mountain. The murals are called ‘penki-e’, named after the kind of paint used, and usually feature the mountain painted in blue on one side and red on the other.
The men’s and women’s baths are slightly different, so they swap sides each day. There are three types of baths – mssage, nanobubble and cold water – and a sauna. The nanobubbles are so small that they penetrate deeply into skin pores and clean them out. Calcium and magnesium are removed from the water to make it softer on the skin. The lobby features a massage chair for extra relaxation.