Times are tough for Japan’s sento, or public baths. Formerly a necessity for suburban and urban residential communities, they’ve been rendered largely unnecessary now that just about every single house and apartment in Japan has its own private shower and bathtub.
So if people don’t have to go to sento, operators have to offer something that makes people want to go to them. One of public bath Daikokuyu’s plans to draw customers to its facility in Tokyo’s Oshiage neighborhood was to partner with popular anime/manga series "Kageki Shojo." Since last April, Daikokuyu, which opened in 1949, has been offering special "Kageki Shojo" merchandise, displaying autograph boards from the anime’s voice actresses, and hanging a noren cloth decorated with illustrations of the main characters in its entryway.
The promotion has been a success, according to Takuya Shinbo, Daikokuyu’s third-generation owner, who says it’s helped bring in more young customers, many of whom snap commemorative photos in front of the noren, which was a custom-made, one-of-a-kind item. Unfortunately, in the early morning hours of Sept 13, someone stole it.
Daikokuyu is open through the night, and as shown in the above video, at roughly 2:30 a.m. on Monday a customer who was leaving after taking his bath decided to take the banner home with him. Though the thief can be seen in the security videos, the staff didn’t recognize him, as he’s not a regular customer.
The man is estimated to be in his 60s, but the staff doesn’t think he’s an anime otaku who wants the banner for his personal use. While he was in the lobby he paid no attention to the autographs from the "Kageki Shojo" voice actresses, which should have been of interest to a real fan of the series, and so Daikokuyu thinks he probably stole the noren with the intention of reselling it to make a quick buck.
That might turn out to be easier said than done, however. As mentioned above, the noren was specially made for Daikokuyu, and since the public bath only has one entrance, they only made one. That means that if any prospective buyer sees the "Kageki Shojo" noren pop up for sale on an auction site, or if the thief tries to sell it off to a second-hand anime specialty store, the potential buyer should be able to tell right away that it’s stolen property.
For the time being, Daikokyu has made a replacement "Kageki Shojo" noren featuring much smaller, less dynamic character artwork.
However, they still want the original "Kageki Shojo" banner back. “Please return the noren,” the sento’s official Twitter account has requested, showing an impressive level of politeness, and hopefully things turn out as happily as they did the last time someone stole some anime-related items from a public bathing facility in Japan.
Related: Daikokuyu official website
Sources: Twitter/@daikoku_yu via Golden Times, NHK News Web
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