"Public baths are the shortest route there is to moral and spiritual enlightenment. Careful reflection shows this."

It does — comic novelist Shikitei Sanba (1776-1822) is quite right — and it's a theme worth developing. First, however, a digression.

"The lord of Iyo (in Shikoku) lost a favorite hawk," writes a Nagoya samurai diarist in an entry dated 1692, "and he sought it throughout his domain. One day, a certain farmer went out to tend his fields, while his wife stayed home with her weaving. A hawk flew in and perched on the loom. The wife took her shuttle and struck the bird, which straightway died."