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few steps, you leave your clogs on a low platform, on the sides of which rise tiers of lockers for clothes. You must bring your own towels; ladies also take with them little cotton bags of rice-bran. They close the bags tightly with strings, soak them in hot water and rub their faces and hands with the wet balls. The process is said to refine the texture of the skin wonderfully.
The bath proper is a great, covered tank, full of hot water, with a terrace-work of planks sloping down on the four sides, where you sit and wash. The ceiling is low enough to bump your head unless you are cautious; it projects forward and stoops to prevent the steam from escaping unnecessarily; therefore, even when it is lighted within, it is twilight, owing to the confined vapor. One feels in it as if working in a mine or tunnel. Older men discuss town topics and business, and young men hum popular airs as they bathe, and intimate friends press each other to rub down their backs. The water is kept warm by a huge metallic heater behind, which is in communication with the tank but covered with planks so as not to scald the bathers' feet. In case the water proves too hot, the bathers consult each other's comfort courteously, and one of them claps his hands. It is answered by a sound at the entrance stand, and immediately cold water spouts into the tank. Then the men stir the tank thoroughly on all sides. Being but a child I took great delight in the excitement. I would creep up to the hole and plug it with my wet towel, and after a few minutes pull it out abruptly to see the water spurt forth with re
The wall has usually a small door; pushing it open the fireman peeps in occasionally, when there is too much noise. The first time I noticed it, I was almost scared out of my wits; for, happening to look around, I saw on the dim wall a grim human head staring me in the face.
Between the tank and the floor is a space paved with large, flat, rectangular stones and cemented with mortar, where the people who think it too close in the tank step out and wash, sitting on long, narrow benches; in some baths this place is overlaid with planks in such a manner that water can trickle down between them. Here we may use soap, but not in the tank. Several small wooden tubs are near at hand; with them we pour the hot water over our body after rubbing, and in them we give our towels a final clean-water washing when through using them. The clear, cold water for the latter purpose is constantly bubbling up in a shallow, well-like enclosure hard by. A couple of dippers float in it, and the people also drink of the water, if thirsty. In well-regulated baths, near the cold-water enclosure is a hot water cistern, constantly fed through a bamboo pipe with boiling water that has not been used. People of cleanly habits, on emerging from the common tank, dip out this fresh, warm water and bathe again. Of course, it would be objectionable to retain the same water in the tank all day and have people bathe in it over and over; as a matter of fact, a portion of it is drawn off at intervals and replaced with a fresh supply.
The ladies' side is precisely the same in arrangement as the gentlemen's; a partition, however, separates them completely.
If you meet a man on the street in Japan with a wet towel hanging on his shoulder, he is from the public bath. He wears no hat even in sallying forth into the open air from the confined atmosphere, walks leisurely along, dragging the high clogs and feeling thoroughly comfortable. In summer evenings, while maidens, mothers and children are cooling themselves in the breeze on movable platforms in front of their residences, young men from the bath come strolling up, inquire politely after their health and make themselves agreeable. As the after-bath garment and towel are to be thus exhibited before the eyes of their admirers new fashions arise every year in regard to them. The fashion changes not so much in tailoring as in the color and pattern.
We are not without private baths, too. Large aristocratic families are all provided with them. The bath-house is usually fitted up in a wing at the back of the building; in it a tub large enough to admit a person in a squatting position is placed on a caldron.
The loose wooden bottom of the tub is left floating while the water boils, serving as the cover; it is fastened afterward. The head of the family goes in first; after him, his wife; then come their children, beginning with the eldest; after them follow the domestics, ranged according to their relative importance.
Evenings at home were always spent very pleasantly, especially before my sisters were married
and went away. There were four of them, excluding the eldest who had left us a good while ago, but used to visit us, and add to our gayety. What did we do to enjoy ourselves? We had music and dancing very often, singing, of course, parties to which our best friends came, games of cards, social chat and fireside talk--whatever goes to make home attractive. Mother took great interest in them herself; she chaperoned the girls-we had young ladies of the neighborhood come to us, and our house was looked upon as one of the social foci of little Imabari. But a reverse in my father's fortune and frequent change of abode put an end to those happy days of yore.
Japanese dancing, I declare without prejudice, is more elaborate and graceful than your round and square dances, but may not be as fascinating; ladies and gentlemen do not dance together. Moreover, our dancing is not anything that can be picked up at balls and receptions, nor is it learned by hopping and skipping at the dancing academy. In fact, it is not the simple keeping time with music, not repetitions of the same steps over and over again; it is composed of posturing and is more like acting, though the manoeuvres are predetermined, in regular order, and not left to the dancer's fancy. Here in America dancing is easily acquired by persons who have an ear for music and grace of carriage, and after having learned to waltz "elegantly" or "divinely " they have practically mastered all other figures. In Japan, each figure is emphatically a new one, and there are many, many figures with distinct names;
one cannot learn them all—each figure requires a separate effort for its mastery. A dance lasts twenty minutes or more; scarcely two steps in it seem alike. In learning a Japanese dance one begins with little tosses of the head, engaging sways of the body and easy movements of the extremities.
Many young girls of the town practised the primary exercises in our house; they came to ask assistance of my second sister, who excelled the rest in dancing. I see her vivacious figure trip up to a beginner, who struck an awkward attitude, and correct a twist of the neck as the barber and the photographer fix their customers' heads. She taught my youngest sister very thoroughly in all the dances she knew, and after that mother put Mitsu (that is the name of my little sister) under the special tuition of a lady who had just then arrived from Osaka, a great centre of enjoyment and politeness. The dancing mistress had a very pretty adopted daughter who assisted her, and they together aroused enthusiasm among the people of Imabari in the art of grace. A society formed itself naturally with the lady as the nucleus, and a scheme was projected for a public exhibition of dances. The parents of the dancing children manifested more zeal than the children themselves. As they came in for it with willing heart and liberal hand, the scheme was pushed forward with surprising rapidity. A mammoth curtain was made that was to be hoisted in the theatre where the brilliant events were to take place; it had painted on it numerous big fans, and