The laundromat is a staple in urban romanticism. Commercials and comedies will tell you how you are going to meet the love of your life there, if you and your dirty underwear just enter at the right, fateful moment. John Waters, the granddaddy of modern underground cinema, advised his followers to shoot their no-budget masterpieces in laundromats, because they are usually well lit. Like the German beer garden or the Japanese coffee house, it’s a place where young and old, left and right, lower and slightly higher class come together without prejudice.

If the laundromat has become something of an unintentional extended living room, why not go all the way and make it into an intentional concept? Freddy Leck sein Waschsalon (literally “Freddy Leck his laundromat” – the grammatical crudity is mildly funny in German) does just that. The shop on Meguro-dori, very close to the Shimizu bus stop, fuses a wide, open café space with the usual rows and stacks of washing machines, and tops it all off with interior decoration straight from the German Wirtschaftswunder years (think Showa era nostalgia, expect tacky chandeliers and tackier wallpaper design).

Sounds too good to be true? So is the titular Freddy Leck (it’s easy to abbreviate his name to “Fleck,” meaning ‘stain’). The bespectacled owner of the original shop in Berlin, often sporting an authoritative white coat and a grandfatherly hat, is actually an actor named Dirk Martens. His passion for doing laundry, however, is real. He already ran another laundromat before starting the Freddy Leck franchise, he has written a book about a life dedicated to getting stains out (or rather had it ghostwritten), and he has his very own line of detergents. The latter can also be purchased at the Tokyo store, along with other Freddy Leck memorabilia.


Some of the Freddy Leck Tokyo team

All of this certainly has a whiff of forced hipness. Yet it is a comfortable, spacious location, which cannot be said for the average Tokyo laundromat. Drop by, have a cup of decent coffee, browse the books on Berlin (if you are proficient in German, you can even read them). I have made Freddy Leck one of my semi-regular working spaces. It’s rather quiet on weekday mornings (I suppose the core clientele of the 24 hours store are not early risers), and somebody has to make use of the giant wooden table that is the centerpiece of the coffee area.

Freddy Leck-5

The other day my wife suggested: “The next time you go to the laundromat, you might as well take some laundry.”
Now, there’s a thought.

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