[5] Prohibition of the Communal Bath / The Sentou in the Meiji Period

混浴の禁止と明治時代の銭湯

As mentioned previously, “YUNA” were completely outlawed in 1841, but it was also at this time that an edict prohibiting communal bathing was declared. In the 12th Year of the Meiji Period (1879) an edict banning the ZAKUROGUCHI was also announced. However, both features of Sentou culture continued for a number of years, the use of the ZAKUROGUCHI lasting until around 1912. As for communal bathing, Commodore Perry states in his NIHONENSEIKI that during both of his visits to Japan in 1853 and 1854, he observed the custom of communal bathing, emphasizing the lack of morals among the local population. This influenced the TOKUGAWA SHOGUNATE to once more declare the prohibition of communal bathing in the Edo, Yokohama and Osaka areas. The custom of communal bathing finally disappeared in the 23rd Year of the Meiji Period (1890) when children older than 7 Years old were prohibited from bathing with the opposite sex. The Meiji Period began in the year 1868 and at the same time the name of Edo was changed to Tokyo (eastern capital). In the 10th year of the Meiji Period (1877) a revolutionary event occurred in Sentou culture. In the Kanda ward of Tokyo, a completely new style of Sentou appeared. The narrow entrance of the ZAKUROGUCHI disappeared, while the floor of the bathtub was constructed so that it was lower than the floor of the Sentou. The ceiling of the bathing area was raised so that it was more than twice as high, rendering the walls much higher as well. Since the Emphasis was on hot water bathing as opposed to steam bathing, small windows close to the ceiling were installed to allow for the escape of the steam. This type of high ceiling Sentou became the norm and was called, “KAIRYOBURO” (improved bath). However, even though this Sentou was considered “improved,” lighting during the evenings was supplied by oil lamps and the floors of both the bathing area and the bath tub itself were made of wood. There were no faucets at the time and all hot water had to be taken from the bath tub. This “improved bath tub” was common until the middle of the Taisho Period (approx.1922). The bath tub was approximately 3 by 3 meters square, while the depth was approximately 1.2 meters. The bathing area was approximately 5.4 by 5.4 meters. According to one source, there were about 1021 Sentou in Tokyo in the 13th year of the Meiji Period (1880). In the following year, the government established guidelines for fire hazard safety standards, consequently and effectively lowering the number of operating Sentou establishments to 908.

湯女風呂が禁止された天保の改革(1841)で男女混浴にも禁止令が出され、明治12年(1879)には、その構造上から浴場の内部が真っ暗で風俗壊乱を助長するざくろ口も禁止されました。しかし、何年来続いた習慣が一夜にしてなくなるはずもなく、ざくろ口は長いところで明治40年代(1907~12)まで残っていたといいます。混浴についても同じで、嘉永6年(1853)と安政元年(1854)に来航したペリーは、著書『日本遠征記』の中で、日本人の混浴を道徳心が無いこととして記録しています。そのため、特に西洋人の立ち入りが多い江戸、大阪、横浜で、いち早く混浴の禁止令が出されました。混浴が完全になくなるのは、明治23年(1890)に「子どもでも7歳以上の混浴は禁止する」という法律が出された以降のことです。
 慶応4年(1806)9月、元号は明治となり、江戸も東京と改名されて、新しい時代の幕が開けました。そんな明治10年(1877)のこと、銭湯業界にも大きな「文明開化」が起こりました。東京・神田区連雀町に、全く新しい形式の銭湯が出現したのです。狭い入口のざくろ口を取り払い、浴槽を板の間に沈め、浴室の天井を高くして湯気抜きの窓を設けました。それが評判となり、庶民からは「改良風呂」と呼ばれ、その後の銭湯の定番スタイルとして広まりました。しかし、夜間の照明はランプ、浴室の床や浴槽は木製で、まだ個別の蛇口は無く、江戸時代と同じく浴槽からお湯を汲みだす方式でした。この改良風呂は明治時代の主流となり、大正の中頃まで続いたそうです。一般的な寸法は、浴槽が縦横10尺(約3m)強、深さ4尺(約1.2m)余で、流し場は2~3間(約3.6~5.4m)四方でした。
 明治13年(1880)の記録によれば、東京府下の湯屋数は1021軒、翌14年(1881)は政府が防火上危険とみなした銭湯に改造などを命じたため908軒と減ったものの、当時の人口密度からすればかなり沢山の銭湯があったことが分かります。