Densho Digital Archive
Preserving California's Japantowns Collection
Title: Louie Watanabe Interview
Narrator: Louie Watanabe
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary); Jill Shiraki (secondary)
Location: Sacramento, California
Date: December 8, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-wlouie-01-0006

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: So let's talk about some of the activities. You mentioned the bathhouse right next door. So describe that, and how often would you go to the bathhouse and what was that like?

LW: Most of the community people, they didn't have bathhouse, bath room. So they all have to go take a bath, so they all went to the bathhouse. So there were two in town, and that kept 'em busy.


TI: So, Louie, we're just starting to talk about the bathhouse, and you mentioned how most families didn't have their own bathroom, and so they would go to the community bathhouse. And there was one that was located really nearby your place. So describe, like, how frequently, how often would you go and take a bath?

LW: Oh, you mean to the bathhouse?

TI: Yeah.

LW: Oh, almost every night. Because you know how Japanese people, they have to take a bath before they go to bed. It's not like they're American style where they take bath when they get up in the morning, they take shower, but we always take bath, no shower at all.

TI: So describe the routine for me. So it's after dinner, about what time would you get ready to go take a bath?

LW: Well, anytime after maybe eight or nine o'clock at night.

TI: And what would you be wearing, describe the whole routine for me. Like walk through taking a bath.

LW: Oh, (going to the) bathhouse... we just wear regular clothes and go up there. We didn't have no pajamas or anything like that to wear. It's right next door anyway. And when we go to the bathhouse, we stayed there about an hour. We do, we used to have more fun in the bathhouse than staying home.

TI: And who would you go with to the bathhouse?

LW: Well, it's the neighborhood, so you always run into some friends there. And next thing you notice, you'll be playing more than you're taking a bath. And there's, the bathhouse was divided within the men and the women, you know, little partition there. But at the partition there's a little opening there, so we used to look into the other side. [Laughs]

TI: But so underwater, underwater you'd have to kind of, the partition? Or is it...

LW: No, the bathtub itself is big enough that we put about six people in there.

TI: I see.

LW: So what they do, they want you to take a shower before you go into the bath, you know.

TI: Now at the time you went into the bathhouse, were there mostly kids your age or were there adults also?

LW: Everybody. Only thing is, like I say, it's divided, the males and females. So we used go there, and you used to run into all the friends. It's more like a community bathhouse anyway.

TI: And you mentioned how it was a lot of fun to see your friends there. So were there times when you and your friends would maybe get a little too noisy, and then the adults would tell you guys to settle down or something like that?

LW: Well, they usually let us know, "Be quiet," or, "behave," or something like that.

TI: And then you mentioned that there was a way to kind of peek into the women's side. If you did that, would guys get in trouble if you got caught?

LW: Yeah, I know. You know how you try to look at, peeping tom, and other side, "What are you doing over there?" [Laughs]

TI: And, okay. So a tub, you said about six people, but you said you were there for a whole hour? I mean, would you be in the tub for an hour or doing other things?

LW: Well, no, we'd just play around. Customers would go in and out. The older people, they come in and they just go right out. But most of the areas around there had a boarding house, and that's the only place where they could take a bath. So they usually take it right after work or something like that.

TI: Now, at this bathhouse, you mentioned how upstairs you had boarders who were Caucasian. Did they ever use the...

LW: No (...).

TI: So it was only Japanese that would come to this bathhouse?

LW: Yeah, they never went to the bathhouse, it's strictly for Japanese.

TI: Now, what about Chinese? Would they ever come in?

LW: No. Well, Chinese had their own, I think. I'm not sure, but like in Chinatown, they stayed on the Chinese side. And the Japanese was in the Japanese community, they were pretty close together.

TI: Okay. So after you finished your bath at the bathhouse, what would you do then? Would you just go back into your clothes and go back, or would you wear something else?

LW: No, we just put our clothes on and go back and go to sleep.

TI: So you didn't have to wear, like, a yukata or anything like that?

LW: No, nothing like that, yeah.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.