Ofuro (Bathing) etiquette, c. 1910.

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“O-Hana-san bathing with her sister,” in an ofuro, c. 1910.

“Both sexes are very partial to bathing, and consequently public baths are numerous. In large towns they may be counted by hundreds. Until lately, men and women, boys and girls, bathed together indiscriminately. But now, in Tokio and other large towns, a railing divides the males from the females. This is only sufficient to prevent the mixing of the sexes, but not to screen them from being seen by each other. The hot water is contained in oblong wooden vats, 8 to 10 feet in length, 3 or 4 feet wide and 3-1/2 feet deep. These are heated from behind, by burning wood in large brass cylinders, the closed end of which communicates with the water.

“There are two of these vats in every bath-house, one being used by men, and the other by women. The water has a temperature between 100° and 113° Far. The women do not enter the bath at once, after disrobing; but throwing a few pailfuls of hot water over the body, squat on a low square flooring, and scrub themselves well with bran, contained in a little cotton bag. This being done, they again throw hot water over themselves, and enter the bath. This is performed twice or thrice. The operations of the male bathers are of shorter duration.”

Keeling’s Guide to Japan, by W.E.L. Keeling & A. Fasari, 1890

Traditional ofuro, made of hinoki [cypress wood], c. 1910.

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