And it makes for a very nice bath!

The other day, while road-tripping in northeast Japan, our Japanese-language reporter Masanuki Sunakoma made a pit stop at the southbound Sano Service Area in Tochigi Prefecture, northeast of Tokyo, which is, among other things, famous for its mini ramen cakes. Tochigi is known as the former domain of the Japanese shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, and so Masanuki was browsing the gift store looking for Tokugawa Ieyasu-related souvenirs.

What caught his eye was a pile of oblong bath bombs wrapped in gold foil. They didn’t really seem related to Tokugawa Ieyasu–perhaps the connection was that they were shaped like a “koban”, a gold bar used in the Edo period when Ieyasu was alive. Still, at just 385 yen (US$2.83), they were cheaper than most of the other Ieyasu souvenirs, they looked pretty unique, and their gold exterior seemed like they’d invite luck, so Masanuki decided to buy one.

After arriving home, Masanuki did some research and realized, as he had suspected, the product didn’t have anything to do with Tokugawa Ieyasu after all. Rather, it’s simply a highly popular bath bomb product called “Nyuyokuryo” (“bathing Edo money”) made by Goshuu Rakuhin, a cosmetics company based in Toyama. They’re known for making bath bombs that look like real koban.

It was surprisingly heavy, as if it were made of real gold, so holding it in his hand made Masanuki feel like a wealthy Edo-era merchant. He belatedly realized he should’ve bought several to give away; it had a luxurious feel and a unique look, which would make it a great gift. The unwrapped bath bomb was surprisingly detailed!

Apparently, it works in bathtubs with about 200 liters (52.8 gallons) of hot water, but it was hard to believe that one of these is just for one bath. Masanuki had some concerns about the ability of this huge bath bomb to properly dissolve, but he dropped it in anyway.



Little by little, the heavy koban steadily dissolved in the hot water.

By the way, according to the website, the smell is supposed to be reminiscent of a “gorgeous, luxurious golden bouquet”, and the bathwater is supposed to turn into “a dazzling lucky yellow color that’s bubbling with auspiciousness.”

In reality, it smelled faintly of flowers and the water ended up only slightly yellow-tinted, so to Masanuki, its gilded promises fell a bit short. Maybe it would have had slightly more impact if the bath bomb had been full of gold leaves or something.

Nevertheless, the water had a smooth feel to it, and Masanuki did feel like he was soaking in a bath fit for a shogun.

As it turns out, you don’t have to drive all the way to Sano to pick up one of these. You can buy them online in singles or packs of two, three, or six on Goshu Rakuhin‘s official website. Since they look expensive and are quite nice, they would make great gifts. Also, they look like gold bars, so you can pretend they’re bribes when you give them away.

Of course, there are plenty of reasons to go on a road trip to Tochigi anyway, not just because road trips are fun and Japanese rest stops can be attractions all on their own, but also because the prefecture is absolutely beautiful with plenty to do.

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