Inari-yu's history dates back more than 100 years. The first proprietor opened a public bath here in 1914 after apprenticing at Kame-no-yu in nearby Komagome. At the time, Tokyo was beginning to swallow the village of Takinogawa, which had thrived alongside the Nakasendo Road on the outskirts of Edo. The population was less than 10,000 people when Inari-yu was founded, but exploded to more than 100,000 by a few years after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. Inari-yu was rebuilt in 1930 by a team of temple carpenters. The name was taken from a small fox shrine that was established next door the year before.
Today, Inari-yu is beloved as one of the last prewar public baths that still survives with an intact neighborhood. Appearances in the film Thermae Romae and other media have introduced Inari-yu to a wide audience as a symbol of sento culture.
In 2020, its 90th year since reconstruction, Inari-yu was registered as a National Tangible Cultural Property. The temple-like style of "miya-zukuri" architecture is emblematic of early 20th century Tokyo sento, and features an unusual three-layer roof over the entrance.
Many original elements, such as the high coffered cieling of the dressing room, gardens and ponds, and "bandai" entrance desk remain in their original form. The dressing rooms and entrance were expanded after the war, and the bathing area has since been updated. Outside the building, old wood logs, a table saw, pull cart, and other materials once used to fuel the boiler are preserved and exhibited.
VR Photography by Waka Kimizuka
Light spills from the windows near the ceiling of the bathing area onto the wall painting of Mt. Fuji. This artwork is frequently repainted and welcomes visitors to the sento.
Relax as you wish in low, medium, and hot temperature baths. The cypress water buckets are a tradition kept alive at Inari-yu.
Inari-yu sites along the route of the old Nakasendo Road, where a village was once known for selling seeds. Farmers would purchase the next season's seeds here on the way home from the markets of Edo.
In the early 20th century, the fields filled with tightly-packed houses and a maze-like web of alleys emerged. Today Takinogawa is one of the few areas of central Tokyo that preserves this early 20th century atmosphere. Follow the Nakasendo to the northwest to find the old post town of Itabashi, or southeast to the popular Jizo-dori in Sugamo. Or wander down to the Shakujii River, once the engine of the area's industrialization, as it flows toward Oji.