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Tokyo 'sento' bathhouses revamped for a new era

Craft beer, yoga and vinyl records help draw younger crowds

Soaking at the Kogane-yu sento, or bathhouse, in Tokyo. 

Yoga classes and vinyl records aren’t typical features of the traditional Japanese sento (public bathhouse) but these are challenging times for the bath business and Takuya Shimbo, owner of two such Tokyo venues, is doing everything he can to keep this beloved slice of Japanese culture afloat. Shimbo, 41, is the third-generation owner of Daikoku-yu, a 71-year-old bathhouse in northern Tokyo.

Three years ago, he and his wife Tomoko also took over Kogane-yu, an older bathhouse five minutes’ walk away. At one time there were thousands of sento in Tokyo. An essential feature of any neighborhood, the sento provided communal bathing facilities when few people had baths of their own.

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