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rébon Kaisaiyu: a café established in a former bathhouse building



2021.03.11 (Thu)

By Charlotte, long-term Tokyo resident & history-loving traveler

Today, I would like to introduce a rather unique cafe. This is "rébon Kaisaiyu," located near Iriya Station in Taito ward.

You might be surprised to learn that this cafe is located in what used to be a "sento" (an old Japanese bathhouse). Located a 3-minute walk from "Iriya Station" on the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line, this sento was part of a downtown area that still retains much of its vintage flavor. All of the particular bathhouse characteristics that make up a sento -- the unique tiled roof, the attendant's booth inside, the coffered ceiling and antique clock that grace the changing areas, and the beautiful painting of Mt. Fuji (most sentos in Japan have such a painting on the walls of the bathing area) -- are still in place here. With cafe tables and chairs, and a shelf for displaying wares set within this environment, the space has been transformed into a stylish cafe.

So how did this sento become a cafe? Kaisaiyu (the original name of the sento) was built in 1928, and thrived as a bathhouse where the locals would gather and socialize. In November of 2016, with the building and its facilities having aged and deteriorated, the sento closed its doors to the sadness of the local population. The bathhouse was well-loved and enjoyed a loyal patronage, with many having bathed there since childhood until they became old enough to have grandchildren of their own. The owner thought, "although I cannot continue to run this place as a sento, it's filled with so many memories, and I want to leave this building to future generations." Upon consulting with the NPO Taito Historical City Study Group -- an organization that works to preserve historical and cultural artifacts of Taito ward -- plans began to have the bathhouse reborn into a cafe.
*Not all of the interiors of the sento have been converted into a cafe dining space -- some parts are said to be used as office space.

A recommended item from the menu is a pairing of home-roasted coffee and homemade ice cream (made with direct-from-the-farm fruits). There are 4 different types of pairings, with blueberry and Ethiopian coffee, kiwi and Costa Rican coffee, chocolate and Nicaraguan coffee, and Shonan Gold mandarin orange and Colombian coffee. You'll want to visit over and over again in order to try out all the flavors. Wouldn't you like to visit this unique cafe, brimming with vintage Japanese atmosphere, and enjoy the taste of their carefully prepared menu?

Address: 2-17-11, Shitaya, Taito-ku, Tokyo

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