Sarasa Nishijin is a sentō (bathhouse) — well, it used to be. But using the past tense here belies how much of its old spirit still lives on. The waters may have drained away — replaced by sofas, tables, chairs and people lounging about fully clothed — but the sentō’s old life is revealed in the gorgeous tiles that wrap around the interior walls and on the ceiling, which slopes up to a huge opening where steam would have once poured out narrow windows. What’s left of the bathhouse makes Sarasa Nishijin feel like a museum — one that offers udon noodles, fried chicken, pizza toast and a nice selection of cakes.
The exterior makes the cafe look like it belongs in a Hayao Miyazaki film, and the food is just as nostalgic and comforting — it’s homey.
I had pizza toast laden with shiitake mushrooms, but the cakes are the real highlight — especially the just-sweet-enough and crumbly carrot cake. In fact try them all, just so you can extend your time in the space.
There are still, thankfully, quite a few public baths dotted around the country that have not been torn down. Some are still operational, others are given a new lease of life, and Sarasa Nishijin might be the jewel in the crown of refurbished sentō. Life goes on, even when the hot water has been turned off.
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