Japan: Hot Water

The Frenchman has his café, the Briton his pub, but for Japan's man in the street the place to meet has been, for the past three centuries, a big bathtub. Throughout Tokyo today, where in working class neighborhoods up to 80% of the population still lacks private facilities, more than 1,600,000 men and women immerse themselves companionably every evening in the steaming vats of the city's 2,608 sento or public bathhouses. There Suzuki-san discusses the besuboru pennant race, and his wife, behind a flimsy partition (a late 19th century concession to Occidental...

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