top of page

Matsu no Yu: The History of an Old Public Bath in Ryogoku, Tokyo

Updated: Mar 20

In the heart of Tokyo's bustling metropolis, there exists a sanctuary of serenity and communal harmony: Matsu no Yu, a cherished public bathhouse located near Ryogoku station. Far more than just a place to cleanse the body, Matsu no Yu embodies the essence of Japanese history, tradition, and community. Here, locals from all walks of life gather together to chat and share a moment of relaxation. At Japan Hopping, we offer an intimate and never-before-seen Public Bath Tour at Matsu no Yu where you will experience a glimpse of Tokyo’s past and enjoy Japan like a true local.

The History of Tokyo’s Public Bathhouses (Sento)

For centuries, Japanese people have enjoyed the relaxing routine of taking long, hot baths. This treasured tradition dates back to the 6th century when Buddhism was introduced to Japan. It was preached in Buddhism that "bathing removes seven misfortunes and grants seven blessings". Fast forward a thousand years later to Japan’s Edo Period (1603-1868), the first "sento" is said to have emerged in old Tokyo. During that time, many people, from townsfolk to samurais, visited the public bath, creating a social space for people of all professions to refresh their minds and body. Even now, the “sento” is loved by many. From the young to the elderly, all people gather to enjoy a warm bath in the mineral-rich water.

Ryogoku: a Town Retaining Much of Edo's Culture

Our public bath tour will be held in the city of Ryogoku, where remnants of Tokyo’s bygone Edo era have been left behind.

Ryogoku proudly preserves the spirit of old Tokyo, with its narrow winding streets, historic sumo stables, and traditional chanko-nabe restaurants where sumo wrestlers dine. Walking through Ryogoku feels like stepping back in time, as the district seamlessly blends the past with the present. From the grandeur of the Ryogoku Kokugikan, where sumo tournaments echo the traditions of centuries past, to the serene gardens of Eko-in Temple, Ryogoku offers a unique glimpse into Japan's fascinating history. The town's commitment to retaining Edo's cultural legacy is evident in every corner, making it a captivating destination for those seeking an authentic Japanese experience.

About 15 minutes away on foot from Ryogoku station, our tour will take place at a historic public bath called 'Matsu no Yu'. Since 1948, Matsu no Yu has stuck to its traditional style of heating water with firewood, which is now a rarity in Tokyo. Many locals love the traditional bathhouse and soak in the warm, gentle water every day.

About 'Matsu no Yu' Bathhouse

Among the 500 public bathhouses located in Tokyo, Matsu no Yu stands out from the rest through its dedication to preserving its history. Ever since the bathhouse opened 75 years ago in 1948, the owners of the bathhouse have not drastically changed the construction or interior of the building. They have maintained their authenticity by choosing to repair rather than renovate. The pointed roof and high, nail-free ceiling structure stand as a testament to the craftsmanship of Tokyo’s bygone era, a feat virtually impossible to replicate today. In addition to the building structure, Matsu no Yu is one of the few bathhouses to use the traditional method of burning wood which gives the water a lasting velvety texture. Matsu no Yu now stands as a rare living relic of communal bathing history.

Highlights from Our Tour

1. Firewood Burning Experience 🔥

You’ll go behind the scenes to discover the craftsmanship of the workers kindling fire and maintaining the bathwater temperature. The experience is reminiscent of the world in Studio Ghibli's Spirited Away.

2. “Shidashi” Bento Box 🍱

The “Shidashi” Bento Box is commonly enjoyed while watching sumo matches. Get a taste of the tasty bento box culture Japanese locals love.

3. Private Group Bathing ♨️

Bathe in the warm and soft water you heated during the firewood burning experience. You will get to enjoy the first bath or “Ichiban-buro” before the bath is open to the public. “Ichiban-buro” is said to bring health and good fortune. Services adapted to various cultures are available.

Join Japan Hopping's Public Bath Tour to experience the history yourself!

We hope to see you there ☺️ :

23 views0 comments


bottom of page