Public bath loved by travellers and locals is Japan’s latest COVID-19 business casualty.

This past year has been a tough one for businesses around the world, as the coronavirus pandemic put the brakes on international travel and halted regular operations, leaving many industries worse for wear.

One of the hardest hit has been the tourist industry, and in Japan tourist hotspots like Kyoto, which draws thousands of international visitors every year, has been feeling the strain, even setting up an “Empty” tourism campaign to lure local visitors to the region.

Unfortunately, the campaign hasn’t done enough to protect businesses in the area, and soon there’ll be a large public bathhouse-shaped hole in the heart of the city, with the announcement that Kyoto Tower bathhouse “Yuu” is set to close its doors forever. 

▼ Farewell to an icon, located in the basement complex of Kyoto Tower, the tallest structure in Kyoto and a symbol of the city.

Photo © SoraNews24

Yuu has long been loved by locals, guests staying at Kyoto Tower Hotel, located in the same complex, and bus travellers, who would use the baths to freshen up after long overnight bus trips arriving at Kyoto Station just across the road.

Yuu is classified as a “daiyokujo” (large public bath), with separate bathing areas for men and women. In the men’s bathing area, guests can gaze at a mural of Mt Daimonji — a Kyoto mountain marked with the character “大” (“big/large”) which is set alight during the famous obon festival every August — as if they’re seeing it out of a series of windows.

▼ Good bathhouses without actual windows include murals to mimic natural views and add to guests’ relaxation.

Keihan Hotels & Resorts, which operates both the Kyoto Tower Hotel and the bathhouse, cited a decrease in customers due to the coronavirus pandemic as the reason for the closure of Yuu.

While the bathhouse previously operated from 7 a.m. to midnight, during the pandemic business hours were shortened to 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. (last admission at 8:30 p.m.). This all proved to be too much for the company to bear, prompting them to announce the permanent closure of the bathing facility, with its final day of business set for 30 June 2021.

People online were saddened by the news, saying:

“Such a shame. I used to love the hot spring fountain in the middle of the bath there.”
“So sad to hear this. I always looked forward to bathing there after a long day sightseeing in the city.”
“I’m going to have to take one final bath there before they close, for memory’s sake.”
“One of Kyoto’s prized sites gone forever.”
“I’d prefer it if they took away the tower and left the bathhouse there!”

The bathhouse has certainly left an impression on travellers around Japan. Sadly, it’s not the first business casualty we’ve seen during the pandemic, with the oldest ryokan at an onsen resort and a historic restaurant from the Edo period also closing their doors due to the dramatic decrease in customers.

With businesses continuing to struggle around Japan as nine of the country’s prefectures now find themselves under a state of emergency due to a rise in coronavirus cases, those vaccines can’t come soon enough.

Source: Traicy Japan via Net Lab
Top image © SoraNews24
Insert images: Kyoto Tower unless otherwise noted
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