Sagano Yu has transformed what was once a 1920’s sento into a cafe, and the remnants of the public baths that have been retained are actually cute. Curved showerheads and manila-envelope-sized mirrors peek out from the walls, and mosaic tiles trim the floors. A cabinet in which guests would once have placed their shoes has been repurposed as a handsome piece of furniture.
It’s a subtle quirkiness that I wish a certain restaurant in Taipei’s Ximending, infamous for taking toilets as its theme, would adopt. But no. Diners sit on seat covers, drinks arrive in urinal-shaped cups, and, kitschiest of all, curries are served in miniature toilet bowls. (Apologies to all you visual thinkers.) I know all this only from hearsay and cursory Google searches, since I would rather drown in wastewater than set foot inside.
I once saw on Facebook a picture of an acquaintance sitting in the bathtub, bubbles up to his neck, with a little tray before him on which he had placed a glass of wine and a plate of cheese. Breakfast in bed has always struck me as dubious—what happens if you spill coffee on the sheets?—but munching on Brie while marinating in your body’s secretions is, well, entirely unappetizing.
Can’t we be satisfied with Sagano Yu and its hygiene-themed-but-tasteful idiosyncrasies? There are exposed faucets! Bathroom tiles! Curries that don’t seek to induce vomiting! I can’t believe I need to stress this point!
Maybe one day I will get over my pretensions. Maybe one day I will find eating on a toilet or in the tub humorous, charming even.
But probably not.
Wander through the quaint mountainside neighborhood of Arashiyama to find this equally pleasant bathhouse-turned-cafe. Simple fare, like pasta, Japanese curry, and matcha pancakes, is served in the bright and spacious rooms, which still feature chrome faucets and bath mats as accents. The adjoining store sells small housewares and confections.
Name in Japanese
4-3, Sagatenryūji Imahorichō, Ukyō-ku, Kyoto
075 882 8985
Around 1,500 JPY per person