Diving in public baths in the Edo period

Public baths at varying prices

first public bathscentoAppeared in Edo, Old Tokyo, in 1591. According to the document Suzuru Monogatari (“Anecdotes that come to mind”), this establishment could have been opened by Ise Yoichi in what is now Ôtemachi, one of the capital’s largest commercial districts.

In the past, baths were so hot and steamy that they became suffocating. It was hard to breathe or even open your eyes inside the facilities. However they did see an increase in attendance – probably due to the adjustment of the temperature there – and became an integral part of city life in the Edo period.

In the bathrooms, you may sometimes see signs depicting a bow and arrow. You can read there daily iruwhich means “shooting an arrow with a bow”, an expression close to a close syllable U Ne AirTo enter the bathroom. These paintings became less common towards the end of the Edo period. Around 1830, small curtains of dark blue fabric were called Noreen (Sometimes they also appear at the entrance to restaurants) where the letters ‘men’, ‘women’ and ‘bathroom’ became common.

Usually the entrance was 10 Mine for adults (1 Mine The equivalent of 12 yen today). However, as of 1841, the shogunate set that rate at 8 Mine For adults, at 6 Mine for children and 4 Mine for infants. (These rates are written on the caption for this article.)

Painter and writer Kitagawa Morisada, the author of this illustration, loved to represent the customs and habits of cities in Japan in the 19th century.e century. Good enough to watch, he noticed that the sharp increase in the price of firewood around 1862-1863 in turn increased the entrance fee to the public baths, which reverted to their initial price of 12 Mine.

At this time, many consumer goods became more expensive due to the opening of the state by US Commodore Matthew Perry. The decline of the shogunate was also marked by tragic events such as the assassination of Lee Naosuke, one of the government’s greatest men, on March 24, 1860 (Cairo), and a British merchant, on September 14, 1862, by a samurai from Satsuma District (now Kagoshima Prefecture). The event is now known as the Namamoji Incident.

In 1865, rates rose further, reaching 16 Minethen 24 Mine The following year, when political instability exacerbated price volatility. From this period the Kitagawa Morisada records date.

What was the Edo public bath like?

Among these Morisada drawings is a plan of a public bath in the capital, Edo.

Layout of a bathroom in the capital, Edo: (1) Homepagean entrance area on a dirt floor, (2) a site for personnel responsible for the public bathing institution, (3) a place for change, (4) a place for a toilet, (5) ZakuroguchiEntrances to the bathrooms and (6) bathrooms. excerpt from Morisada MancoMorisada Manuscript (courtesy of the National Library of Parliament).

Off the site for the staff responsible for the facility, the bathroom is divided into a men’s area on the left and a women’s area on the right. The design of the changing rooms and showers has not changed since that time.

What is different is Zakuroguchi, The space between the toilet and the bathrooms themselves. in japanese dictionary, Zakuroguchi They are known as the entrances to the public baths of the Edo period. The ceilings were particularly low, so customers had to bend over to cross them. In this way, the bathrooms looked like rooms separate from where everyone would shower before entering the bathroom.

In his works, Morisada documents the differences between the entrances to settlements in Osaka and those in the capital, Edo.

entrance Zakuroguchi In Osaka (left) and Edo (right). excerpt from Morisada MancoMorisada Manuscript (courtesy of the National Library of Parliament).

The first public baths appeared in western Japan, thus Zakuroguchi The city of Osaka is first in chronological order, is rather rich in style, full of crimson gables and floral carvings. The entrances to the capital, Edo, are more sedate, reminiscent of the hallway Tori Shinto shrine.

There is also a picture above with landscapes and people. However, the details are difficult to distinguish. Today, Mount Fuji is often photographed in cento But this will only be the case since the beginning of XXe century. As evidence of this, Morisada did not once mention the presence of a representation of the sacred mountain of Japan in his works.

Enterprise Kengo Irigumi Sento Shinwa (“Wisdom and Madness Mixed in New Bath Tales”) Written in 1802 by Santo Quioden, who was born about 50 years before Morisada, it also includes pictures inside the public baths in Edo.

Part of the men’s bathrooms (Image taken from the book Kengo Irigumi Sento ShinwaWisdom and madness mingle in the new bathing tales of Santo Quoden. The image above represents a Zakuroguchiwhile the bottom faces the shower area, with a bucket visible in the toilet area (photo provided by the National Diet Library).

Note the presence of Western-style gables on Zakuroguchi ; They are evidence that this style was still popular in Edo at the beginning of the 19th century.e century. Half a century later, the gables have given way to the arcades Tori.

However, the bathroom area was low ceiling, narrow and dark, very different from cento Spacious, open and bright today. However, the Japanese, whether they were from the wealthy classes or not, loved to come and lie there.

Prohibition of mixing in public bathrooms

Morisada wrote in his works that he had read that mixed baths were widespread in Edo. Although Matsudaira Sadanobu, a senior advisor to the shogun, had ordered the separation of the baths, it is true that cento It was mixed for most of the Edo period.

The Kansei-era reforms (1787-1793) initiated by Sadanobu prohibited co-education in public baths. For those, who also advocated abstinence and rejected all kinds of leisure, the fact that men and women bathed together goes against public morality.

After his removal from power, some public bathing establishments reportedly became mixed again. However, the reforms of the Tenpo era (1831-1845) again imposed strict rules and bathrooms for men and women became completely separate.

the work Hadakisoi hana no shoufuyu (“Naked Flowers Compete in the Women’s Bath”) by Toyohara Kunichika (1868) depicts a fictitious women’s bathroom scene. At the top right, a man helps use the toilet (photo courtesy of the National Diet Library).

In some cases, where the space is not enough and does not allow segregation between men and women, there may be a space reserved for women only. In the classic rakugo story Japan (“The Bath Attendant”), son of a lecherous merchant, works in a cento She dreams of turning it into a women’s space, allowing her to have a spot of her choosing from her location.

A painting at Ryôsen-ji Temple (Shizuoka Prefecture) depicts a mixed bath in the last years of the shogunate. There is a shower area decorated with gables characteristic of Osaka and Kyoto and a mixed toilet area. This temple is where the Treaty of Amity and Commerce between Japan and the United States was signed in 1858. This painting is said to have been painted by a foreigner.

That is why baths continued to be mixed outside Edo, while they were forbidden in the capital. This tradition continues today in some parts of Japan.

Our articles on Edo Japan described by Kitagawa Morisada

(Title image from Morisada manuscript(Courtesy of the National Library of Parliament)


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