[6] The Sentou in the Taisho and Showa Periods

大正・昭和の銭湯

In the beginning of the Taisho Period, the “improved bath” evolved again with the wood being replaced with ceramic tiles. The use of tiles among the common folk began during the first years of the Taisho Period. It was perhaps first seen used in show windows, on barber shop floors and on the walls of sinks. Tiles were also used decoratively on the exteriors of brothels. Of course, in the Sentou as well, tiles were used on all surfaces, from the walls to the floor to the bath tub as well. In Tokyo, from the 12th Year of the Taisho period (1923) just after the Great Kanto Earthquake in which most of Tokyo burnt to the ground, all sentou were reconstructed with tiles. The use of white tiles began during the second half of the Taisho Period. In the second year of the Showa Period (1927), the use of the “KARAN” faucet began in the bathing area, leading to an improvement in hygiene.



大正時代に入ると、銭湯業界に「改良風呂」以来の大きな変化が現われます。それが、「タイルの使用」です。タイルが庶民の生活に現われ始めたのは大正時代に入ってからで、商店のショーケースや理髪店、写真館、遊廓あたりから盛んに使用されました。当然、この中に銭湯も含まれます。東京では大正12年(1923)の関東大震災以後、特に急速に普及してゆきました。現在でも、大正期に建てられた古い銭湯の一部には当時の装飾タイル(マジョリカ風タイルなど)が使用されていることがあります。もっとも、一般的な白地の無地タイルが使用され始めるのは大正後期に入ってからで、事実、古い銭湯のご主人によれば、昭和初期においてさえ浴槽が木造であったところが多かったそうです。さらに昭和2年(1927)には、浴室の湯・水に水道式のカランが取り付けられ、衛生面でも向上してゆきます。


The Sentou During, and After World War Two

戦中、戦後の銭湯

In the 16th year of the Showa Era (1941), on the 8th of December, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, immediately leading to war with the United States and the other Allied Forces. Because the Japanese government required all able men to fight in the war, many Sentou owners and workers went off to the front lines, leaving only the women to manage the establishments. During the war, there was another edict requiring all citizens to hand over all metal articles to the army for the manufacture of weapons, including air planes, Ships and bullets. Business hours of the Sentou were also limited, and additionally, business was often suddenly halted due to air raids and other corresponding alerts. The year the war began, there were 2,796 Sentou bathhouses in Tokyo. When the war ended in the 20th year of the Showa Era (1945), those Sentou that were not destroyed numbered approximately 400. When the war ended, some of the Sentou resorted again to communal bathing, but due to the fact that many had been destroyed during the war it resulted in them always being very crowded. Certain people took advantage of the resulting lack of space, stealing from other bathers, which lead to a generally negative atmosphere in the Sentou. During the 30s of the Showa Era (1955-1964) the number of Sentou suddenly increased, becoming one of the most important places for the post war population.

昭和16年(1941)12月8日の真珠湾攻撃を境に、日本は太平洋戦争に突入しました。応召により主人や従業員を軍隊に取られた銭湯も多く、戦時中の営業は困難をきわめました。この間、金属器具の供出、営業時間の短縮、入浴時間の制限、空襲警報による営業停止など、営業上のさまざまな問題が襲いかかりました。戦争突入の年には東京都内に2796軒あった銭湯も、昭和20年(1945)の終戦時に戦禍を免れた建物はわずか400軒たらずでした。当時の銭湯はところによって男女混浴で、しかも常時超満員。さらに、それをいいことに盗みを働く者も多く、想像以上の悪状況だったようです。その後、昭和30年代(1955~1964)に入ると浴場数は急激に増加し、戦後の庶民生活を支える重要な公共施設として活躍します。

The Contemporary Sentou in Japan

現在の銭湯

In the late 40s of the Showa Era (1965-1970), a trend began towards the installation of showers in the Sentou. During those same years, many private homeowners began to install bathrooms as well. If we examine the Sentou in Tokyo, in the 43rd year of the Showa Era (1968), there were as many as 2,687 Sentou bathhouses. This number has been gradually decreasing so that at the time of writing this article, Heisei 22 (2010), the number of Sentou establishments is 800; which is less than half than when the Sentou was in its most prosperous period. Presently however, the Sentou has more modern features, for example, Sauna Rooms, Jacuzzi Jets and open air bathes that have brought about a new era of Sentou enjoyment. Consequently of course, the Contemporary Sentou provides a much larger bathing space with more to offer than most private homes. Clientele seeking these extras are on the rise. Even though the number of Sentou has decreased, there is, and always has been no better place for relaxation for us, the Japanese.

銭湯の浴室にシャワーがつくようになったのは、昭和40年代前半(1965~1970)の高度経済成長期に入ってからです。そして、各家庭に内風呂が浸透し始めるのも丁度この時期でした。東京の銭湯を例にとりますと、戦後は昭和43年(1968)の2687軒をピークに減少し続け、平成22年(2010)時点では800軒と、全盛期の半分以下になりました。しかし、現在ではサウナやボディーマッサージ、露天風呂など、さまざまな趣向が凝らされたユニークな銭湯が次々と登場するようになりました。内風呂にはない「広さ」や「サービスの良さ」を求めて訪れる人も増えています。数こそ少なくはなりましたが、銭湯は今も昔も私たち日本人の「憩の場」ということに変わりはないのです。