Sunshine Sento Sake & the Senses

A couple of months back I discovered the Japanese TV series, Sunshine Sento Sake. I had read a small blurb about it recently in some philosophy book I was leafing through, and decided to give it a try. It’s streaming for free on Amazon Prime now.

At first I wasn’t sure what I was watching. The show is deliberately slow and formulaic. In each episode, the main character, Takayuki, a salary man, struggles in his sales job. He spends his time cold-calling businesses across different Tokyo neighborhoods, and each time stumbles upon a Sento – a traditional Japanese bath house. The bulk of the episode is comprised of him skipping work for a mid-day indulgence to the Sento and then enjoying a meal and a cold beer afterwards, before he inevitably gets pulled back into the orbit of corporate life.

In a way the show acts like a travel guide as you get to see different parts of Tokyo and develop an appreciation for Sento. But the hook of the show runs much deeper, hence why it was mentioned in a serious book. To me its a meditation on the sensual world. When we see Takayuki in the corporate world of quotas and competition he is constantly stressed and unsure – he is stuck in his head. But as he enters the Sento he becomes fully absorbed into his environment, appreciating and finding pleasure in all its detail. The tension in the show is the guilt he feels in allowing himself this pleasure – the shift from mind to body.

I think if you end up appreciating this show like I do, it means that to some extent you’re grappling with the same things. We may struggle to become fully absorbed in our senses, both out of being busy and also a sense of guilt that were being unproductive.

I’d definitely recommend giving the show a watch, and another similar one I recently discovered on Netflix called Samurai Gourmet. And then maybe afterwards treat yourself to a cold, mid-day beer.

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