93-yr old bathhouse being demolished

Demolition of a historic and famous bathhouse in Kitasenju began on March 10. Daikoku-yu was one of Tokyo’s leading examples of the ‘miya-tsukuri’ style of architecture often used for palaces, shrines, and temples, but also popular for larger bathhouses.

This style of sentō bathhouse architecture became popular in Tokyo in the reconstruction following the 1923 earthquake, and experts say Daikoku-yu was one of the most extravagant built. Inside, the changing room had 10-meter coffered ceilings with handprinted seasonal flowers in each square. The bathing room had 6-meter blue ceilings and murals of Mt. Fuji on the walls. At the rear was a small Japanese garden with koi pond. Ornamental carvings such as ‘gegyo’ (a bargeboard pendant), and another in the image of a phoenix adorned the front of the building.

Daikoku-yu opened in 1929 just around the corner from the historic Nikko-kaido Road – one of the five routes of the Edo period. This part of Adachi ward had long been a lodging town as one of the stops on the old walking route.

Around the time of Daikoku-yu’s opening, the neighborhood was filled with row houses and small factories. The bathhouse was extremely popular with laborers and local residents for many years. In the 1950s it would have as many as 1,000 customers a day. In those days it was still uncommon for the average household to have their own bath, with most residents relying on the local bathhouse.

As it became more commonplace for homes to have their own bathtubs, the local sentō began to fall out of fashion. Up until its closure in 2021, Daikoku-yu’s customers had been around 100 a day.

The sixth-generation operator said the old building required several million Yen a year in maintenance. They also had several long-time staff retire, leading to the decision to close operations permanently in June 2021.

Locals had called for the historic structure to be preserved, but Adachi’s local government was unable to bear the extensive cost it would require. Demolition will be completed by September 1, 2022.

Location

32-6 Senju Kotobukicho, Adachi Ward, Tokyo

Sources:
NHK, July 1, 2021.
Minna-no Keizai Shimbun, June 30, 2021.

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