Long-standing sento bathhouse Matsumoto-yu in Nakano has undergone a major renovation for the first time in its 85-year history. With the help of locals, the bathhouse was able to collect sufficient funds for a complete revamp, turning it into a more modern sento with new baths and saunas.
The newly refreshed Matsumoto-yu has a classic dry stone sauna with a Finnish stove and an autoroulu – a machine that gently sprays water onto the hot rocks, keeping the steam constant and even.
There’s also a steam room exclusively for women with a very luxe fit-out. The benches inside the room are covered in small tiles made up of ore from Austria’s famous Bad Gastein mountain spring town and lava from Mt Fuji. The sento says the tiles give off far-infrared radiation, which supposedly helps your body recover faster.
After you’ve broken a sweat in the sauna, head over to the bath area to wash up. You can relax in a bright pink bath infused with herbs used in kampo (traditional Japanese medicine).
If the herbal bath isn’t your style, try out some of the more unusual ones like the sleeping, sitting and jet-massage baths at the back of the room. The Jacuzzi-like bath has four settings, all designed to help back aches. There’s also a high pressure shower with multiple showerheads for a relaxing water massage.
For something less high-tech, you’ll find two deeper, colder baths: one that’s lukewarm (around 25-30 degrees Celsius), and a cold bath that’s 15-17 degrees Celsius. Third generation owner of the sento Motonobu Matsumoto says it’s best to take a dip in the lukewarm water after you’ve first hopped into the sauna and the cold bath.
If you want to take a break in between baths, there’s a space near the entrance where you can rest on tatami mats and let the cool air dry you off.
Once you’re done bathing, head to the Japanese-style relaxation room, where you can have a lie down and rest. Keep an eye out for the room’s old-fashioned stained glass window – it’s one original feature of the sento that isn’t going anywhere.
Make sure to check out some of Matsumoto-yu’s exclusive merchandise like the sauna hat and stickers, both featuring an illustration of the sento’s friendly resident softshell turtle, Kamekichi. You can meet him in person at the entrance, too.
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