[2] The beginnings of the ‘Sentou’ public bath its development in the Edo Period

銭湯のはじまりと江戸の銭湯風呂

It is unclear as to the exact date when the tradition of Sentou began as a business. The first written use of the word ‘Sentou’ was in the Nichiren Goshoroku, published in 1266. In the Giyon Shikkou Diary in the Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto, it is written that the Godaigo Emperor established a Sentou in the grounds of the Unkyou Temple sometime during his short reign between 1321 and 1324. From these two historical references, we can deduce the long-standing tradition of the Sentou.

According to the Keicho Kenbunroku of 1614, Sentou in the Edo Period began in 1591, one year after Ieyasu Tokugawa’s Shogunate moved from Osaka to Edo (modern-day Tokyo) in 1590. Yoichi Iseno was the first person to establish a Sentou public bath, the location of which was near one end of the Zenigame bridge, between the Tokiwa and Gofuku bridges in old Edo. The price of admission was one Eirakusen coin.

銭湯、つまり有料の入浴場のはじまりは明らかではありませんが、文永3年(1266)の『日蓮御書録』に「湯銭」の文字が登場し、京都・八坂神社の『祇園執行日記』(1343~1372)には「後醍醐天皇の元享年間(1321~1324)に雲居寺の境内に銭湯を設けた」という記事があることから、その歴史は相当に古いことがわかります。

江戸風俗を彩る町風呂の誕生は、『慶長見聞録』(1614)によると、徳川家康入府の翌天正19年(1591)、伊勢与市という者が、いまの常盤橋と呉服橋の間にあった銭瓶橋(橋を架ける工事中に銭を詰めた瓶を発見したことに由来する)の河岸に銭湯風呂をつくり、永楽銭一文で入浴させたのが最初といわれています。

Let us try to imagine the experience of going to a Sentou in those times. The outside of the building would have been a simple structure, different to the almost Buddhist temple like appearance of the Sentou that can be seen currently in the Tokyo area. The way one could identify a Sentou was by a bow and arrow hanging at the entrance. This was a visual play on word in Japanese that meant “to be in hot water”. Upon entering, one could see the Bandai (a seat for a supervisor, the same as today), the wooden floored Datsuiba (changing area) and the bathing area all in one room. Even today in certain parts of Okinawa, one can still find the old mixed setting with the Datsuiba and the bathing area in the same area with just one Bandai.

The entrance to the bath itself, called the Zakuroguchi, was an opening with a height of only 80 centimeters, designed so that heat from the inside could not escape, meaning one had to bow down in order to enter the bathroom. Because there were no windows in the room where the bathtub was located, it was completely dark. Consequently, in order to warn those entering, those in the tub would purposely make their presence known by clearing their throats.

では、江戸の銭湯に行ったつもりで、その様子を説明してみましょう。まず外観は、現在一般的に東京都内で見られるような寺社風ではなく、平入りのむしろ質素な構えでした。そして湯屋を見つける目印には「弓矢」が多く使用されました。これは「湯に入る」と「弓を射入る」をかけた江戸流の駄酒落からきています。戸を開けて中に入ると、今でもお馴染みの「番台」があります。板の間の脱衣場と浴室はワンルームで、現在でもこの形式が残っているのは沖縄県の銭湯のみとなっています。

正面には「ざくろ口」と呼ばれる80cmほどの低い入口があります。ここをくぐり抜けると浴槽のある部屋になりますが、ここは採光が全くないために暗く、先客は咳払いをして存在を知らせたそうです。

The bathroom was very hot because the steam filled the air and the water was hot, so it was not possible to sit in the water for an extended period of time. Of course, there were no water faucets in the bathing area as can be found in a modern Sentou. Instead, both the Sansuke (bathhouse attendant) and person manning the Bandai rationed the hot water with a large wooden ladle for the bathers.

Even though the Sentou in the Edo Period was small and dark, it still was considered a place for gathering and communication. In a Sentou there was generally a room for resting after bathing on the second floor of the building. This resting ‘salon’ was common up to the Meiji Period (1868 - 1912).

これは、蒸気が外に出ないよう極端に入口を小さくしたためで、湯も熱くて長湯はできませんでした。また、洗い場に蛇口などはなく、三助さんや番頭さんが上がり湯(体を流すためのお湯)を柄杓で汲んで桶に入れてくれました。これは、むやみにお湯をたくさん使われないように見張るためでした。

このように、江戸時代の銭湯は小さい、狭い、暗いという状態であったにもかかわらず、庶民の憩の場であったことも忘れてはなりません。二階にサロン風の部屋を設けた「二階風呂」は、明治時代まで残っていました。