Manner at Public Bath

  Tonight I have been to a sento (community bathhouse, accommodating tens of people) in my neighborhood, which I had not visited for more than a year. I am a humongous fan of onsen (natural hot spring), but I seldom go to sento. Sure, it is relaxing to be in a large (10-20 person's) bathtub all by myself or with a small number of people (2-4), and hot tubs have substantial health benefits. However, the sentos in my neighborhood are often crowded -- if so, I would rather take a quick shower to save time and money.


  Besides, more and more gyms and health clubs in the greater Tokyo area, including the one I visit, have a large spa with modern interior, which reminds me of a large common bath in the onsen resort in Izu.


  Still I miss sento once in a while. The number of sento, which used to serve as a hub of neighbors, are declining over the past few decades. Our neighborhood are lucky to have two of them. Sento gives a nostalgic fulfillment to me when I get tired of living in the big city. I missed it almost every week or two when I was living in the UK/US/Canada for 15 years. Fortunately I visited and bathe in the hot springs in the Rockies while living in the US for 5 years. The smell of sulphur, at the hot springs, reminded me of onsen in Japan. I even feel the smell of sulphur as an important ingredient of my childhood memories in Japan.

  When I visited the sento in my neighbourhood a couple of hours ago, I found the most unusual poster in men's changing room. The poster is about the manner at sento. The poster comes with manga (cartoon) with the skit of two characters written in English, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese. Surprisingly, the cartoon characters are ancient Romans in the bathhouse. Some of the illustrations are outrageous, but it is outrageously funny!

テルマエ・ロマエ IV 特装版 (BEAM COMIX)

  The poster has recently been distributed to sentos all over Japan because of the new film Thermae Romae (see video above), based on a bestseller Japanese cartoon by Mari Yamazaki. I love this cartoon, and I have all four volumes of the cartoon (next volume are coming soon).


  The live-action film made out of the cartoon, based on the trailer (in the video), does not impress me much. This is because it does not look authentic: there are so many Japanese actors who plays the roles of key Roman characters. I also feel there are some misrepresentations of both Roman and Japanese cultures in the film (rather than in the original cartoon book). An anime series of Thermae Romae has also started recently (see the video below). I prefer this anime version a lot.

  If you live near a sento, visit and have a look at the poster. You will get the joke if you have a basic knowledge of bath culture in ancient Rome vs. modern Japan. It is a pity that the cartoon book still does not have English translation yet.




Posted on Wednesday 25 April 2012