Women washing in public baths, Edo, (Tokyo), Japan, 1863-1864.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Engraving from 'Zhivopisnaia Iaponiia', (St Petersburg, 1870), a Rusian translation of 'Le Japon illustree' ('Japan illustrated'), (Paris, 1870) by Swis diplomat Aime Humbert (1819-1900) who spent two years in Japan from 1863 to 1864. Bathing and cleanlines are important facets of Japanese life. Japan has many natural hot springs and public baths have been popular for several centuries. As Envoy Extraordinary Minister Plenipotentiary for Switzerland, Humbert was able to travel beyond the barriers of the foreign settlement at Yokohama, including areas inaccesible to the ordinary person. The text illustrates and discuses the life, customs and activities of the Japanese, before the influence of foreign powers.