The Great Shitamachi Sento Crawl, Part 1: Daikoku-yu

Disclaimer: Gaijin Mommy is not your average sento reviewer.  For an English language review with extremely useful, factual-type information, I recommend you check here.

Ok, so the most important thing to do before visiting Daikoku-yu is to check this easy-to-understand schedule.

Luckily, the only truly important part to note here is in the bottom left-hand corner, which tells us that mens’ and women’s bathing areas alternate daily.  On odd days of the month, the side with the large (outdoor) rotemburo and large terrace is open to men.  On even days of the month, the Awesome Side is for women.

Here is a detailed illustration of how the  Awesome Side got its nickname (just now).

In addition to the large rotemburo, the Awesome Side has two saunas, two mizuburo (cold water baths), an aromatherapy bath, a jet-massage bath, a walking bath, and a wooden room above for that exists for the specific purpose of chilling out while naked and still steaming from the hot water.   And all this is for the Tokyo Sento Association’s government subsidized fee of 480 yen per adult (plus 300 yen if you want to use the saunas.)  That is, if you remember to come on the proper calendar day for your designated sex.

The clearest picture I could find of Daikokuyu’s rotemburo unfortunately contains a bunch of naked dudes enjoying each other’s conversation.  Sorry in advance about that.

Note the smaller empty bath beside the rotemburo.  That is an outdoor mizuburo!  The water is especially cold in winter, which makes the mizuburo adventures described in my previous post regarding GDACBC’21 all the more exhilarating.

I haven’t been able to find much in the way of photos or illustrations  of the other side of the sento,  likely because it is very lame by comparison.  I mean, it tries to make up for not having a giant outdoor bath with an indoor carbonated bath, which is supposed to make your skin super soft or something, but it is all pretty meh by comparison.  And the single mizuburo on the Lame Side can only really fit one person at a time.  Two is not impossible, but it is highly inadvisable.  Well, unless you are looking for a good way to get the previous bather to move along, already.

To be fair, the Lame Side of Daikoku-yu probably wouldn’t seem so unimpressive if the Awesome Side weren’t so fucking amazing, but such is the nature of binaries.

In defense of the Lame Side, though, both bathing areas have certified hot spring water.  And what really sets Daikoku-yu apart, in my opinion, is the rooftop terraces, which exist on both sides, though that of the Lame Side is significantly smaller, and does not have the hammocks.  Still, either rooftop is highly recommended for anyone who can appreciate the beauty of reclining nakedly outdoors.

As far as your fellow bathers are concerned, most of the regulars on the women’s side are in the over-65 range. (The anime collaboration was probably an attempt to reach out to a younger market.)  They all generally know each other, and will include you in their conversation if you make the effort to join in, though I rarely do (mostly because of Covid these days.)  The attitudes I’ve encountered are in the medium range.  People are polite enough, but not over friendly.  My whiteness turns more heads than usual due to the lack of tourists during the pandemic, but the other bathers tend to get used to me after a few encounters.  I even made one old-lady-friend a few months ago.

I do feel like I’ve gotten a scowl here and there- especially at the height of Covid- but it could just as easily been a case of geriatric resting bitch face.  Also, I might have just been paranoid in the current environment of animosity towards non-Japanese due to unfounded concerns about Covid.  After all, subtle and not-so-subtle racism has always been an issue in the sento community.  (Important: Because my perspective is limited to that of that caucasian minority, I cannot possibly tell the whole story about being foreign in a sento.  We all know that Japan treats different types of minorities very differently.   If anyone of another race or ethnicity ever feels inspired correct me in my observations, I would be extremely grateful for your insight.)

Oh, and one more thing on the Cons side: There is an old lady who spits.  I wish I were kidding, but I’m not.  One of daikoku-yu’s lesser known perks is free ice.  I have never partaken in this practice, because it seems kind of gross, but you can take ice cubes out of a pitcher and let them dissolve in your mouth while you are in the sauna or whatever.  Anyway, the spitting lady always takes more than her share of ice cubes and puts them in her personal plastic cup.  She then takes the cup out to the rotemburo where she proceeds to chew on the ice cubes .  It is all rather cow-like, in my humble opinion, but who am I to judge.  Then, when she is done chewing, a process that may take several minutes, she spits the water out of her mouth on the ground right next to the rotemburo.  I shit you not.  I think she makes an effort to rinse the ground afterwards with bath water, but still.  Dude, still.

Once you learn to recognize her face, though, it is easy to avoid her.  And in the context of Daikokuyu’s general superiority to most other sentos in the neighborhood, and within Tokyo even, her spitting is not that big of a deal.  If you are male, it does not even affect you.

So if I’ve convinced you to check out Daikoku-yu, as I hope I have, check out their website, where more information can be found in English, sort of.

Well the directions are pretty solid, anyway.

And hey, maybe I’ll even see you there.  I’ll be the naked white lady lying on the reclining chair on the rooftop terrace.  No need to wake me, I’ll be fine.

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  1. Pingback:The Great Shitamachi Sento Crawl, Part 2: Yudonburi-Sakaeyu - Gaijin Mommy

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