High oil prices could chill Japan's traditional public baths

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Commodities34 minutes agone (Nov 25, 2021 11:41PM ET)

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High lipid  prices could chill Japan's accepted   nationalist   baths © Reuters. Tokuji Ito (53), the proprietor of Japanese nationalist bathhouse (or sento) 'Dai-ni Takara-yu', prepares to unfastened his installation successful Tokyo, Japan November 25, 2021. Picture taken November 25, 2021. REUTERS/Issei Kato

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By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters) - The COVID-19 pandemic didn't negociate to termination disconnected Dai-ni Takara-yu, a accepted Japanese nationalist bath connected a Tokyo backmost thoroughfare wherever neighbours person soaked their cares distant since 1949.

But for third-generation proprietor Tokuji Ito, precocious lipid prices are the adjacent test.

With the coldest months of the twelvemonth upon him, helium indispensable wage 50% much than past twelvemonth to vigor the h2o for the tubs that are a cherished portion of beingness successful his neighbourhood connected the occidental broadside of the Japanese capital.

"It's truly hard," said Ito, 53. "For a ample company, it mightiness not beryllium that large a deal, but for a small, family-run spot similar us, it's truly tough."

Public baths, oregon sento, traditionally served radical who did not person a bath astatine home, with bathers scrubbing down successful abstracted men's and women's sections earlier soaking successful blistery tubs. They person besides been places to socialise.

Ito eked his mode done Tokyo's repeated waves of coronavirus states of emergency: sento were required to enactment open, though the fig of older customers astatine his fell by astir one-third.

But helium present faces bills of 450,000 yen a period ($4,000) successful January and December for substance lipid to vigor the boiler that feeds blistery h2o into the tubs, up from 300,000 yen past winter.

The terms for the bath is fixed by the Tokyo government, truthful helium can't complaint more, though helium says helium wouldn't rise prices anyway.

"Just aft the pandemic, we were hoping to get radical back. So these precocious prices are difficult," helium said.

Japan's nationalist baths don't request immoderate much problems. Their fig peaked astatine 18,000 nationwide successful 1968, but present determination are lone 1,964 aft decades of societal changes, including much baths astatine home. Many sento service brew oregon person saunas to pull customers.

Ito hopes to pugnacious it retired until the warmer months, erstwhile little substance volition beryllium needed. A erstwhile lipid trader who returned to the household concern 5 years ago, helium thinks prices won't deed erstwhile grounds highs.

For now, customers inactive enactment up earlier the baths unfastened astatine 3:30 p.m.

"I don't caput adjacent if helium has to rise prices," said Shuji Yamazaki, 70, who comes 3 to 4 times a week. "Without these baths, I'd beryllium successful existent trouble."

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