A short walk from Ryogoku Station and just down the road from the Sumida Hokusai Museum is Edo-yu Spa, a 24-hour oasis of comfort and relaxation.
After a morning trotting briskly around Ryogoku, an afternoon spent gently poaching in the lush confines of Edo-yu on Hokusai-dori was a treat for us.
Facilities and fees
Refurbished in 2007, using motifs from Hokusai, Sumida’s most famous son, and locally sourced materials, Edo-yu’s softly lit environs offer a full bouquet of spa services, sento facilities, relaxation rooms, and a restaurant, all under one roof.
A flat fee of ¥2,750 gets you a towel, indoor clothes, access to hot-stone beds, and more hot water than you can shake a stick at. Personally, I’ll pay pretty much whatever is asked for the chance to sit up to my chin in hundred-degree water. Nine baths and a selection of saunas, as well as the standard shower-bath facilities, don’t come cheap—but it’s worth it.
Cheapo hack: staying overnight at Edo-yu
Also, technically, if you’re traveling light, you can overnight here: the sento is open for 22 out of every 24 hours, closing only between 9 am and 11 am, and for an extra fee of ¥340 per hour between 1 am and 6 am, you can stay overnight. It’s definitely a good option for a late-night chillout, especially since it’s a short walk from Ryogoku Station. I can confirm that falling asleep in the relaxation room is easy. It’s quiet, warm and peaceful.
Etiquette and getting comfortable
Foreigners new to Japan’s onsen and sento may want to keep a few things in mind. One, most baths won’t admit people with tattoos, so either cover them up (within reason: a sheet of micropore over your backpiece won’t work) or look for a bath that admits the inked. Two, they likewise won’t admit anyone who is drunk. Three, they won’t admit anyone younger than junior high school age.
And four: you’re going to be naked in front of strangers. Clothing in the bath area is not just discouraged, it’s forbidden, so forget about sneaking in your Speedo. You undress in a locker room and proceed, in stately status quo, into the bathing area, where you wash clean before stepping into the baths themselves (and do step: dive, and you’ll be escorted out). Most Japanese public baths and hot springs are gender-segregated, but even so—for many of us, group nudity smacks of the high-school locker room and attendant body anxiety. Let all of that go. Do not let it stand between you and the glory that is Edo-yu. Nobody cares, anyway.*
Edo-yu is a little on the pricey side, but it’s yen well spent. And after an hour parboiling in the gorgeous, chin-deep baths, you’ll realise that money isn’t all that important anyway.
*Pretty much nobody. But, a note to masculine-of-center women or feminine-of-center men: an attendant may try to direct you to the wrong side, or for a fellow bather might gingerly approach you with the intention of telling you (politely) that you’re in the wrong locker room. The chances of this happening drop sharply once you’re naked, so shuck off those clothes stat.