‘Yudo’: A heartwarming ode to a good, old-fashioned soak

The Japanese onsen (hot springs) experience has long been a subject of fascination, from tourists who need advice on bathing etiquette to cognoscenti who pen onsen guides. The humble sentō (public bath) gets less attention, though. Once found in every urban neighborhood, sentō underwent a sharp decline in the 1970s when private baths became standard in apartments and houses.

Masayuki Suzuki’s heartwarming comedy “Yudo” is a love letter to the sentō, offering viewers a soak in a warm bath of nostalgia, though the action is set in the present.

Based on an original script by Kundo Koyama, whose credits include the Oscar-winning drama “Departures” (2008), the story holds few surprises, but that is not really the point. It’s a pleasure to visually luxuriate in the film’s sentō, a gem of bathhouse architecture from the Showa Era (1926-89) that Suzuki’s camera explores in loving detail, from its wood-fueled furnace to the small glass bottles of milk the patrons guzzle.

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