[4] "Bath Women" / The "Salon Upstairs"…


The popularity of the culture of communal bathing was due mostly to the existence of the YUNA, or “Bath Women.” As one may assume the “Bath Women paid special attention to those male customers willing to pay the extra fee for their extra special service… According to the OCHIBOSHU (1752), a compilation of essays published daily at the time, many of the communal bath Sentou establishments closed their doors to normal bathers at 4PM, allowing entry only those special customers mentioned above. During normal business hours, “YUNA” dressed in traditional cotton garb, scrubbed bathers, but in the evening hours they changed into more seductive clothing. While the women changed their clothes, Sentou operators cleaned the DATSUIBA, converting the space into a stage in which the women in waiting played melodies on their Shamisen… Consequently, decisive clients made their way to the “Salon upstairs” with their Shamisen player of choice. Due to the fact that Sentou in the Yamanote area (the hilly and affluent area) employing “YUNA” were considerably successful, more and more operators added on second floors to their structures until almost all Sentou in that district offered “YUNA” services in their “Upstairs Salons.” The BAKUFU SHOGUNATE decreed that the existence of “YUNA” corrupted public morals, and passed a law limiting the number of “YUNA” to three per Sentou establishment. However, this decree was completely ignored, resulting in the BAKUFU completely outlawing the “YUNA” trade in 1841. Those “YUNA” who had lost their jobs in the Sentou were forced to move to the “YOSHIWARA” district where their work was officially sanctioned and controlled. Even though the “YUNA” disappeared, regular bathers continued to patronize the Sentou, helping to maintain their status as places of mutual communication. During the boom in the “YUNA” business and even after they were outlawed, most Sentou were converted into “Two Story Bathhouses” between the years of 1830 to 1844. This type of Sentou was only found in the Yamanote area of Edo, becoming one of the more popular places for mutual communication in the district. However, the “Two Story” type of Sentou eventually disappeared completely by around the 18th year (1885) of the Meiji Era.