Japan, a View from the Bath by Scott Clark

By Scott Clark

"Clark's chapters at the importance of bathing in jap mythology and the old improvement of communal bathing offer a very good standpoint from which to view glossy practices." --Daily Yomiuri

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Example text

Writings by court nobles indicate that some form of public bath may have existed as early as the beginning of the eleventh century. After the beginning of the Ashikaga period, many nobles were using public baths. ) By the year 1401, the use of the word “sentò” for bathhouse appeared (Zenkoku 1973:58–59). “Sentò” is a combination of two characters: “sen” (money) and “tò” (hot water; the alternate pronunciation is “yu”). Reversing the order of the characters, that is, “tòsen,” recreates the word used long ago for the money charged for admission to the bath.

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. These boats were also to be found in the harbors of Tokyo and Osaka where sailors would bathe after voyages or fishing trips. Moreover, portable bathtubs were occasionally carried out to be used at traditional activities. Excursions to view blossoms (hanami), snow (yukimi), or other natural phenomena have a long history in Japan.

Moreover, the concrete chimney may take a different form, closer to ones used in the manufacturing facilities of the region. In newer bathhouses with brick exteriors, the chimney may be faced with matching brick. Generally the Buddhist temple style of construction is not as common outside of Tokyo—even in Tokyo it is not universal—and in Hokkaido I did not see one bathhouse with that style of architecture. In eastern Japan, sentò bathtubs are usually placed along the rear wall of the bathing area.

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