While the Japanese people of the 19th Century bathed frequently, most did not have baths in their own homes and instead used public bathhouses (sento), where everyone was exposed. By going to the same bath-house at the same time, a person could see naked anyone he or she wished to. Although mixed bath-houses were made llegal in 1791, they continued to exist elsewhere in Japan for many years (and still have survived to this day).
In this striking scene (Fig.1.) a man reaches out from the interior background to draw the woman inside with him. The viewer is also brought into the act as they spy not only upon the encounter between the man and the woman, but also upon several more women in a third room that opens to the right.
As long as the sense of domestic space is expanded even further to the outside world through the window on the left, where a harbor is visible. Various layers of space connect simultaneously each impinging upon the next with an ever-decreasing degree of privacy.
A superb scene from the acclaimed ‘Four Seasons‘-series. In a bathhouse we see two females executing their esoteric activities. The squatting woman holds a furoshiki (small bag) including soap between her teeth. She is multitasking, combining doing her laundry while at the same time cleaning her private parts. The curved feet of her standing friend is in shunga an indication of sexual excitement. So this could very well be a lesbian affair.”
Secret World of a Bathhouse
Two other scenes in the form of an intriguing fold-out piece that begins with an entertaining image (Fig.3) portraying a trembling male imbecile sitting on a wooden bucket while being taken care of by an aristocratic family. When the four tabs are flipped one enters the “secret” world of a bathhouse (Fig.4.).
You can find more Japanese women bathing in the following video:
Below you can find some extra bathhouse designs by the great ukiyo-e masters Koryusai and Kiyonaga. You can also examine some photographs:
The above diptych (Fig.6.) has an interesting owner history because it was formerly the property of Edgar Degas. This is the second state, with a slight alteration in the figure of the standing woman on the right sheet, to make her pose more prudent. An impression of the first state is in the Musee Guimet, Paris. Recently a third impression was discovered which is housed in the Kawasaki Isago no Sato Museum. Probably the most reproduced bathhouse design.
The above photograph (Fig.8.) is a staged scene in a studio in which they copied a brothel/bathhouse. The models are not courtesans but Yaro. The slip like skirt was the only undergarment worn by women. In a real bathhouse they would be nude if they were regular bathers.
Below you can find more bathhouse secrets:
Just After Bath
Fig.13 and 14 depict a serene and at the same time sensual image of a young woman, who just finished taking a bath, looking outside of the window. She clearly enjoys this moment and the artist shows her sensuality by subtly exposing some of her private parts (Keisai Eisen was a master at this). Striking is that the designs each portray the woman at a different time of the day.
This amazing triptych design by Chikanobu (Fig.27) depicts six beauties bathing at a deluxe onsen (a Japanese hot spring). The women at left are absorbed in a deep tub, a mother nurtures her child, holding it to her chest, while another female drenches a towel in the water. The right panel shows a woman who dresses after bathing. She pulls a wrap around her as her companion sits near a small wooden tub. Behind them, a beauty adjusts her hair while looking in a large mirror. The verandah overlooks a beautiful garden framed by blossoming cherry trees. A lovely scene, beautifully drawn with fine line work and soft shading in the lake and sky.
You can find a famous bathhouse design by Koryusai with a prudent and an uncensored version when you click HERE!