• REUTERS

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A Tokyo bathhouse is offering classes on topics ranging from comedy to gaming in hopes of luring younger patrons and reviving the dying tradition of communal baths.

During one recent session of the “Naked School” at the Hinodeyu bathhouse, nine men sat around the bath, listening to an expert on the ancient board game go.

“I think young people would be interested and come back to communal baths if they knew these kind of classes are offered here,” Tadashi Manayama, a 37-year-old architect, said after class.

Yuichi Tamura, manager of Hinodeyu, operated by his family since 1939, said many young people had never been to a communal bath because most homes have modern bathrooms.

“I wanted to give them a reason to visit us by offering an odd event like this naked school,” Tamura said.

A screen shot of a Reuters video shows a teacher of Japanese board game of go explaining about the game at Hinodeyu bath house in Tokyo
A screen shot of a Reuters video shows a teacher of Japanese board game of go explaining about the game at Hinodeyu bath house in Tokyo’s Asakusa district in May. | REUTERS

In its heyday, more than 500 people bathed daily at Hinodeyu in Tokyo’s Asakusa district. Today that number is around 100, he said.

Traditional bathhouses, known as sento, once numbered more than 2,600 in Tokyo alone in the late 1960s, but since then have seen a gradual decline and prompted some bathhouses to come up with novel ideas to lure customers.

At Hinodeyu, the admission price of ¥460 ($4) allows anyone to attend a class on the topic of the month. Bathers learned about traditional comedy in April, while the March’s topic was the public bath industry.

Looking ahead to June, bathers will learn how to deal with the local problem of stray cats.

“It can be anything as long as you have something to teach people,” Hinodeyu’s website said.

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