Japan, a View from the Bath by Scott Clark

By Scott Clark

"Clark's chapters at the value of bathing in jap mythology and the historic improvement of communal bathing supply a superb viewpoint from which to view smooth practices." --Daily Yomiuri

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Extra resources for Japan, a View from the Bath

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History books about Edo nearly always discuss or depict the bath at least briefly. For example, Edo Minzokushi (Ichikawa 1976), a book with simple sketches and explanations about the folkways of the Edo period, has an illustration of an Edo public bath as the frontispiece. The baths were also recorded often in the literature and art of the day. Sanba Shikitei wrote a particularly interesting work, Ukiyoburo (Floating World Bath), in 1810 (Shikitei 1953). A large number of ukiyoe (floating world pictures) depicted the bathhouses and people, usually women, bathing.

Advertisements and paintings adorned the bathing area walls. book Page 45 Friday, January 25, 2002 3:47 PM Bathing in the Modern Era 45 The Typical Bathhouse During hours of operation, a curtain (noren) hangs at the doorway of the sentò indicating that the facility is open. These noren, hung at shops of all sorts, often display the name of the business and signify that the establishment is open. In the case of the bathhouse, the curtain usually has the word “yu” written either in the Chinese character or in the hiragana script.

Another bath that became popular was the “street-corner bath” (tsujiyu), first recorded in Kyoto in 1680. During this period, various vendors and performers used street corners, paths leading to temples and shrines, and other convenient places along the streets to market their wares and skills. Among these vendors were people who provided a bathtub and hot water for money. These baths were usually portable. Another movable bath was the “boat bath” (yubune). Small boats carrying bathtubs plied up and down the rivers of Edo, providing baths to those who lived close to them.

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