Public-bath art for the private bathroom

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In my May 20 column in the Japan Times, I wrote about public baths in Japan, and more specifically about a specialty bath called the “denki-buro” 電気風呂, or “electricity bath.” For the shocking details, I suggest you read the article. And/or check out another first-hand report by a very funny blogger.

Here, I’m going to plug another attraction of the sentō 銭湯 (public bath) — the charmingly cheesy hand-painted murals that adorn the wall over the tubs in many public baths. Mt. Fuji figures prominently in a high percentage of these works of art.

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As does water, for perhaps obvious reasons.

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It is perhaps a sad sign of the times that these special scenes, which formerly could only be seen by visiting one of the fewer than 5,000 public bathhouses still remaining in Japan, can now be ordered online for any home bathroom.

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To install one, you just wet the wall and roll your poster out.

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I couldn’t find any English-language sites offering bath posters, but Little Oasis, which just opened in April, bills itself as the “only company in Japan specializing in posters for the bath.” You can have any photo turned into a bath poster. Prices start at 5,000 yen for the B2 size and 6,000 yen for the B1 size.

Today, there are only two artists left specializing in public-bath art: Nakajima Morio 中島盛夫, pictured below…

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…and Maruyama Kiyoto 丸山清人.

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For more on bath art, check out this article in English about Hayakawa Toshimitsu, 早川 利光, a bathhouse mural painter who passed away in 2009.

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