all photos by Yurika Kono
It must be a public bath miracle. Just last week we wrote about how rare it was to see a sento open instead of close, or be converted into a cafe. Now it’s happened again. Rather than bending to the winds of change, the owners of Koganeyu, an 88-year old sento in Tokyo, have doubled-down on their aging public bath, launching a crowdfunding campaign to support renovations. The new Koganeyu reopened this week.
the old dated tiles on the interior and exterior were removed, exposing the bare concrete
Faced with a decision of shutter or renovate, the owners of Koganeyu decided to reach out to the public for help. In May of 2020 they launched a crowdfunding campaign seeking to raise 3 million yen (about $28k usd) to fund renovations of their 88-year old public bath. Over 1000 supporters joined them and the sento raised double their original goal.
Jo Nagasaka and his architecture firm Schemata Architects were hired to come up with a time and cost-effective method to give the sento a facelift. Nagasaka focused on maintaining bath area sizes while transforming unused spaces like the boiler room and storage areas and adding new functionality such as a craft beer bar (which doubles as a DJ booth) and sauna. And despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Koganeyu was able to reopen in less than two months.
the bandai reception area is equipped with a craft beer bar
the separating wall between the men’s and women’s bath areas was left open. Although structurally it would have been easier to bring the wall up to the ceiling, patrons prefer an opening because they can call out to family members and coordinate exit timing.
award-winning manga artist Yoriko Hoshi (creator of kyou no nekomura san) painted a mural of Mount Fuji spanning the entire width of both bath areas. The mural tells a story that transcends boundaries between males and females and can not be fully viewed from only one area.
artist Ichiro Tanaka designed a noren curtain in both areas using the phrase お〜〜〜〜い, (meaning “heeeeey”) as a way of commemorating the oft-used call that families send to each other across the male and female boundary.