The exterior of Sagano-yu. (Photo: Shozo Fujii)

Public Bath Converted into a Cafe

Visit Kyoto's modern open-air cafe called Sagano-yu

The exterior of Sagano-yu. (Photo: Shozo Fujii)
Sarah Chaney   - 3 min read

There used to be an old public bath (called a sento) located in the residential area close to the JR Saga-Arashiyama Station in Sagano.

The original building was known as Sagano-yu, which was built in 1923. For the locals, it was a common stomping ground for almost a century. However, as the years passed and times changed, people's lifestyles began to diversify and Sagano-yu closed their doors in 2004.

Fortunately, many old buildings in that area were protected from demolition by the government because the he area of Saga Arashiyama was designated as a historically important region. The building of Sagano-yu fell into this category and found itself a second chance.

Including the suffix "yu" in Japanese generally identifies an establishment as a public bath, but with its new reopening, "yu" took on a new meaning. The word "Cha no Yu" means tea ceremony, which is more accurate to Sagano-yu's new style of business. Rather than offering its service as a public bath as it had been, it as now been renovated into a modern cafe, while still maintaining the essence of a public bath in the Showa Period with its open air rooms and decision to keep original decorations and fixtures.

Although the building has been converted into a cafe, there are significant things that remain the same. The shower heads, mirrors and original floor tiles reflect public baths during the Showa Period. The modernized interior uses the original decorations, such as the antique shower heads, as works of art.

The designs and style of the solid wooden tables are mismatched due to having been obtained from various places, but they all fit in well with the atmosphere of Sagano-yu. You can say that it is a reflection of the new owner's own personal adventures.

The coffee at the cafe is made with paper filters and is a bit strong. It suit my preference well, since I like coffee that isn't Italian. Their pancakes, topped with a generous helping of whipped cream made with a reduced amount of sugar, are also popular.

If you find yourself in Sagano, please stop by Sagano-yu. The open air interior creates a nice atmosphere where you can bask in the sun and enjoy a cup of coffee or some food off of their menu.

Sarah Chaney

Sarah Chaney @sarah.chaney

Greetings! I am currently sailing through my second year living in Fukushima. In the four years I've lived in Japan, I have realized that Fukushima is Japan's best kept secret. With, I look forward to helping people be able to learn more about Fukushima and also assist with transl...