Morio Nakajima, one of only two remaining sentō (銭湯) mural painters in Japan, working on a picture of his hometown of Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture, where residents have been unable to return since the nuclear disaster there
Sentō, or public bathhouses, are a declining tradition in Japan. In their heyday in the 1960s there were more than 2,500 in Tokyo alone – now there are fewer than 1,000. Sentō feature in many Japanese paintings, Ukiyo-e prints and in the country’s literature, and the tradition of communal bathing found there is not dissimilar to the one found in ancient Rome – in other words, a place not only to bathe but also to relax and socialise. Along with the bathhouse of more recent times came the mural painters; until recently they were always men painting somewhat garish murals of famous Japanese scenic spots – paintings of Mt Fuji being by far the most popular. Now, however, there remain only two mural painters working in the sentō tradition. The Mainichi Daily News reports yesterday that –

Of just two artisans left in Japan who paint murals in public bathhouses, Morio Nakajima is a longtime Tokyo resident who has been painting scenes from his hometown of Iitate in an effort to inform people that such a beautiful village exists in Japan’s northeast, ravaged by the triple disasters of March 11, 2011.

The 66-year-old Nakajima left Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture, for Tokyo at the age of 18. While working at a rubber processing plant in Sumida Ward, he became enamored of the grand mural of Mount Fuji on the wall of a public bathhouse nearby, and decided to apprentice with the late bathhouse painter Kikuo Maruyama.

Full article here. See also The Guardian article here.