Koganeyu
Photo: Yurika Kono

The newly renovated Koganeyu bathhouse in Sumida now features a DJ booth and taproom

A humble, traditional neighbourhood sento is now transformed into one of the trendiest venues in Tokyo

By
Emma Steen
Advertising

A few decades ago, Japan’s public bathhouses, known as sento, were just as integral to a city’s infrastructure as shops or restaurants. Now that the majority of Tokyo homes are fitted with a bath/shower, the humble sento has seen its popularity waning. While many Tokyo bathhouses have been forced to close due to diminishing demands, one family-run business decided to reinvent itself to adapt to the changing times. 

Koganeyu
Photo: Yurika Kono

Formerly a run-down yet cheerful bathhouse for the local community, Koganeyu recently underwent a big change that transformed the facility into a cross between a modern sento and a craft beer taproom. The renovation was a collaborative project involving artist Hiroko Takahashi, who moved her studio to the neighbourhood six years ago, and Schemata Architects. Though the project took several months of crowdfunding to complete amid the coronavirus pandemic, the team was able to incorporate transformative contemporary design details while staying faithful to the original spirit of the bathhouse.

Koganeyu
Photo: Yurika Kono

Koganeyu, which has been in business for 88 years, was always a casual place for people to come and go as they please, but the addition of a new craft beer bar by the entrance makes it all the more inviting. You can rent towels from the bar on the way in, and order a pint from a selection of craft beers on your way out. The bar also doubles as a DJ booth, where music permeates the walls of exposed concrete. 

Koganeyu
Photo: Yurika Kono

Bathing areas for men and women are merely separated by a 2.25m half-wall and share a mural of Mt Fuji by Yoriko Hoshi. A railings which loops over the half-wall was installed to add to the continuity of the spaces, where friends and families on either side of the wall would be able to hold on to the same railing for support.

Koganeyu
Photo: Yurika Kono

For the changing rooms, artist Iichiro Tanaka created a noren (entryway curtain) that reinforces a feeling of togetherness. Tanaka did so by installing a curtain that stretched across both changing rooms, reading ‘o’ in the male changing room and ‘i’ in the female changing room to spell ‘oi’ a friendly exclamation used to call out to someone.  

Koganeyu
Photo: Yurika Kono

The baths have three different temperatures ranging from lukewarm to hot to suit all ages, as well as improve blood circulation for when bathers alternate between them. There is also an open-air cold plunge pool for those wanting to cool down after sitting in the sauna. 

Koganeyu
Photo: Yurika Kono

Tickets can be purchased at the vending machines by the entrance, where admission prices are stamped onto the exposed concrete of the original structure. A 90-minute session in the bath costs ¥470 for adults, ¥370 for middle-school students, and ¥180 for elementary school children. You can also buy tickets solely for the sauna or to rent towels. Unlike many other bathhouses in Japan, Koganeyu doesn't have any rules against tattoos, so inked bathers are welcome, too. 

Koganeyu is open on weekdays and Sundays from 10am to 12.30am, and on Saturdays from 3pm to 12.30am. You’ll find upcoming DJ events on Koganeyu’s social media pages.

More from Time Out 

Artist Takashi Murakami has added a 10m-tall golden statue to Roppongi Hills

Look out for these new artworks at five subway stations along the Ginza line

These three Tokyo bars made it into the World's 50 Best Bars list for 2020

Disney+ documentary 'Marvel’s 616' uncovers the mysteries of the Japanese Spider-Man

The new Haruki Murakami Library at Tokyo's Waseda University will open in 2021

Latest news

    Advertising