Archive for December, 2015

Ye Olde Samurai Sauna

I first saw a samurai in sauna in the manga Tenkaichi! by Pink Aomata.

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The poor flustered heroine serving as Nobunaga’s attendant in male disguise, LOL

I thought that was weird, but it’s a romance manga with time-travelling involved, and some weird bunny telling the heroine to change history and save Nobunaga from Honnoji, so… I ignored it. The premise is so zany that I just can’t be bothered to worry about this kind of detail.

Later on I stumbled into Aomata’s blog, and she seemed to be a really big history enthusiast (she and her husband bought the DIY Azuchi castle set and it makes me boil with frustration and utter envy) and is well-read about things, but still. Knowing history doesn’t necessarily mean sticking straight to it when writing fiction.

Then I encountered a sauna scene AGAIN, this time in a manga called Daireokuten Maou Nobunaga (didn’t catch the mangaka’s name this time):

So I thought, damn, I need to find out more about samurai sauna. Is it a bandwagon like the epic scene of Matsunaga Hisahide blowing himself up by stuffing the kettle Hiragumo with gunpowder and lighting it up? That was an exaggeration, but it was partially based on truth (Hisahide did destroy the Hiragumo), so… the random sauna scenes must have a reason for it. It’s definitely not fanservice, after all. Is it ritualistic? Leisurely?

The only clue I have to it is the term listed in Tenkaichi: Yudono no Tomo. Unfortunately, even with the name and kanji provided, I can’t find anything about it. The closest thing I managed to find was a Japanese dictionary entry for O-yudono (御湯殿). Even so, it wasn’t helpful because it was talking about the emperor’s bathrooms, even if it did include steam baths.

Then somehow I managed to locate a research paper titled “Washing off the Dust: Baths and Bathing in Late Medieval Japan” by Lee Butler. It mentioned that Hideyoshi owned a steam bath in his Jurakudai palace.

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Hideyoshi’s steam bath, Oukakudai, currently located in Nishi-Honganji

That’s a lead. So I started looking around for that.

And then, BOOM! This article turned up. An archaeological team has excavated a steam bath in the ruins of Nobunaga’s Nijo mansion. It looks like it was not so different from modern day sauna in function. You entertain guests and socialize in them, so it’s pretty much just regular past-time activity.

Now to see if I can find the proper steps for using a sauna. Manga is hardly the best reference, but both scenes featured attendants accompanying Nobunaga in the steam bath. What were they supposed to be doing? Wiping off the lord? Just as conversation partner? If there had been more people using the steam baths, would there be more attendants?

Also, the article about Nobunaga’s Nijo steam bath mentioned that it has “nearly-identical structure” to Hideyoshi’s one. I’m not sure if it means the style of architecture is similar, or if the arrangements  and placements of the rooms/walls/etc are nigh-identical. According to this post, Hideyoshi once had a residence next to Nijo, so perhaps the one at Jurakudai had been inspired by Nobunaga’s one? Interesting.

 

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