Japanese Online Newsletter Vol. 28 銭湯(せんとう)






Public Bath

A Yusen, also known as a “Ofuroya", means a public bath where you pay to bathe. The history of public baths is said to date back to the 11th century. However, it was in Edo (present-day Tokyo) in 1591 where a bathhouse was opened as a business where visitors would pay money to use it as it is now. History indicates that a person named Ise Yoichi managed the first public bath in Edo (Tokyo).

It seems that public baths in the Edo period were mixed baths (men and woman bathe together). Female bath attendants known as “Yuna” would wash the body of men inside the public baths. Eventually the Edo Shogunate (Edo government) at that time said that discipline was being disturbed, so the mixed baths and the number of bathers were regulated. However, those regu-lation were often ignored or not followed.

At the present date, there seems to be mixed baths in some hot springs, but there are no mixed baths in bathhouses, and there is no “Yuna”. Of course, the entrance of the bathhouse is divided into men's and women's. Also, many bathhouses cannot be used by those with tattoos, including one-point tattoos. It is because tattoos are said to be associated with Yakuza and gangsters.

If you have the opportunity to go to Japan, I think it is interesting to go to a public bath.

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