Mr. Masaomi Takahashi from Tsurumi "Shimizu-yu", from a role to liven up a "public bath" to a role to liven up the region
take what is taken for granted
ーーWhat made you decide to take over the bathhouse?
After the third anniversary of my grandmother's death, my father called me and said, "I'm thinking about quitting soon." When I was in elementary school, I even wrote an essay that I wanted to take over the public bath in the future, but I didn't really think about it after I became an adult. I used to work for an IT company in Tokyo, but public baths had always been a thing of the past, so I thought it would be sad to see them disappear.
I knew that the management situation was not very good, but rather than quitting without me being involved, I decided to quit after being involved for the time being. For the time being, I want to be involved in the end and sort out my feelings.
ーーWasn't it scary to quit your job and jump into the public bath industry?
I was worried about anxiety, but no matter what you do, it's not easy to feel completely secure. I feel like I decided to go in the direction I wanted to go.
ーーDid you help out when you were a child?
Until I was in 6th grade, I didn't have a bath at home, so I used to go to public baths all the time. I was also asked to sit on the watch stand. Since I was a child of a public bathhouse, when I was soaking in the bathtub alone, the customers often talked to me, and I became acquainted with most of the people in the neighborhood.
As my older sister and I gradually entered puberty, there were times when we didn't like that kind of thing, so when we decided to renovate our house and took a bath for the first time, I was happy (laughs).
A public bath share house that connects residents with the community
――Have you ever wanted to do this on succeeding the sento?
With only a sento, the number of customers would be limited, and I was aware of the difficulty of attracting customers, so I was thinking of increasing my spare capacity by combining various things. One of them is a share house. Rather than selling the fact that there is a sento, it started as one of the businesses that used this place. I myself have lived in a share house in Tokyo, and it was a lot of fun, so I decided to make use of that experience.
-The building itself is huge.
At the beginning of the establishment, there were people who lived and worked, so we had rooms for them, and we are also expanding. There are 8 rooms, including rooms that are not used now. This year is the 6th year, and about 20 people live in total.
--What kind of people live here?
There are also people who joined because of the connection between themselves and their wives, or because they happened to be vacant after receiving inquiries. Many people run their own companies or are freelancers. There are web-related people, people who are doing honey distribution in general, students who are doing ventures that connect tourists and students, and people who are starting businesses in Africa.
There are many patterns in which people who go abroad for work or study abroad live there after returning. If it's vacant, you can live right away, and they say, ``I really like the bath,'' so maybe I'm unconsciously looking for something Japanese.
――Did you decide the criteria for wanting this kind of person to enter?
I've been thinking about various things from time to time, but since the house and the surrounding environment are always changing, I would like to make it a place where everyone can share such changes. The year before last, a couple had a baby, and it became an environment where there are families. It's a bit special for a share house, and I think some people may be worried about crying at night, but I'm trying to rehearse things that I don't have and things I might experience in the future while living with people. Or rather, I am asking people who can accept it as one kind of richness to come.
――Is there any change in public baths because such people live there?
By being recognized as someone who lives in Shimizuyu, it seems that both residents and neighbors find it easier to talk to each other. I don't know about it, but the oden shop right there is asking me, "He went to Peru, where is he now?" or "I heard he's going to Africa?" .
I've had the residents do the bandai several times, so I sometimes get amused by the regulars and say things like, "Who are you?" or "Do you live here?" (laughs).
Also, public baths and share houses are businesses that operate only within the locality, so I wanted to create opportunities for people to talk with the locals walking around the town, and worked with the residents to open shaved ice shops and baked sweet potato shops. I also set up a food stall. We also participate in local festivals and carry the mikoshi together.
A place where various people meet
――A lot of rare entertainments are held in public bath.
So far, we have held yoga, pilates, dance workshops, etc. in the dressing room. By chance, I was asked to be a lecturer here, and I was asked to try it at Shimizuyu.
Then, I thought that I could make use of the shape of the bandai to create some kind of communication, and it was the "Sento BAR". With the help of a friend who works as a bartender on a business trip, regular customers of public baths, people who have never been to public baths but live nearby, and acquaintances of mine who live in Tokyo also came all the way. rice field. It was a small space, so it was difficult for 10 people to get together. It's hard to call a bartender every time, so I'd like to continue doing it in a simpler way.
――Both share houses and events like that show the breadth of your friendships, Mr. Takahashi.
Rather than having a wide range of faces, I get inspired and get ideas by visiting various places and talking with various people. Even if I think about this and that on my own, there is a limit to what I can come up with, so with the help of people who have been working at the public bath for a long time, I try to go outside in search of information with my light footwork. .
By holding events, it's good to be able to create a different environment for the people who come and go.
――How did the annual Hanami Festival begin?
Shortly after I took over the bath, there was a time when a typhoon blew the roof off and forced us to close the public bath for repairs. We can't use the bath and we don't have anything, but we thought it would be encouraging just to get people together, so for the first time, we would decorate the cherry blossoms and eat together indoors.
Since then, thanks to the cooperation of various people, the scale has grown steadily. Last year, there were musicians performing live, selling snacks such as oden and takoyaki, a greengrocer that sells local vegetables, a traditional Thai massage shop, an accessory shop, and a second-hand bookstore. also had a stall.
It seems that most of the young customers came from Tokyo, not just acquaintances of their own, but also acquaintances of people who would be involved with the taxi company. "All the girls who go to Shimizuyu from the station are cute, but what are they?" (laughs).
What we can do for regulars and locals
――The event has become a very powerful event through SNS and word of mouth.
About 130 people came last year. However, I feel that it is very difficult to disseminate information to local people. For the time being, we gave out free tickets to the neighbors, and people from the senior citizens' association and the neighborhood association also came, but the space is small and it may have been difficult to enter. It was interesting to see the regulars drinking together with young people from Tokyo.
It's difficult to hold a cherry blossom viewing this year due to the number of staff, but from now on, I'd like to create a communication space like a bar, or a small market with local shops, etc. I want to think more about things that will be useful for those who are.
It seems that there are a lot of men living alone around here, so I thought that if there were enough manga, I could spend a more comfortable time, so I've been collecting them little by little recently. I can't compete with the amount of super public baths, so I thought it would be interesting to focus on rare things and manga that I want to introduce. I want to make a bookshelf and expand the floor.
――Does it mean that you will shift the direction from the big event?
The cherry blossom viewing and the sale of goods such as public bath T-shirts are the same. , I think that doing it in Tokyo will have more power to spread the word.
It is often seen in the public bath industry as a whole, but in fact, there are many parts that are not much different from restaurants, and there are places that are going well and places that are not, and whether it is in front of the station or far away. I think there are various ways to do it. There are a lot of people out there who can spread the word about the industry as a whole.
At first, I was thinking that I would be able to do it for about three years, so in a way it was unexpected that it would last so long. It would be nice if you could continue.