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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Yum Yum and her Toilet - 1889 Grooming In Japan

Here's an old story from the St. Louis Republic newspaper (Missouri) dated May 11, 1889 entitled In A Japanese House - All about lovely Yum Yum and her toilet.

Of course, in 2014, the toilet has a different connotation than what was meant a mere 120 years ago, as back in 1889, regardless of the country, it meant how one would groom and dress oneself.

I'm going to assume the 'toilet' in this story refers to grooming. Nope… I haven't read the piece as I write this. I pretty much read it when you do.

Yum Yum, of course (?!?1), refers to the maiden in the Gilbert & Sullivan comic opera known as The Mikado (of course). I had to look it up, but I knew it was from something I had heard of but never seen performed.

I had to look up another word - cuspidor. It's a spittoon - another old word, but spittoon sounds like what it is used for. A cuspidor does not sound like what it is used for as cussing is not required.

Lastly, pomatum is another form of pomade, a waxy, greasy substance that makes hair look slick, shiny and neat. That's a photo of an antique pomatum hair care product from Japan above that I saw on E-Bay.

Anyhow, this story was reprinted by the Republic via the Washington Star. It was found on Page 16 of the 22-page tabloid.

It was found over at, and excellent resource on early American newspapers. Thanks Vince.

In A Japanese House
All about lovely Yum Yum and her toilet.
The Stove that the Jap Takes to Bed with Him - Drinking Tea and Saki - A Japanese Dinner and Its Preparation

The Star reporter, found Prof. Romeyn Hitchcock, who has recently returned from a two-years' stay in Japan, in his little laboratory-room opening upon one of the balconies of the National Museum. Prof. Hitchcock was not completely de-Americanized by his residence among Yum-Yum's people, but some of his surroundings gave evidence that he has not yet reaccustomed himself to all of our American habits and institutions. For instance, his feet were attired in a pair of straw slippers, with nothing at the heel to hold them on, and among the jars, retorts and apparatus of his laboratory a tiny teapot was giving forth a little jet of steam. Prof. Hitchcock, with true Japanese hospitality. poured out tea for his visitor in a little cup that held about a tablespoonful.
This was Japanese tea made in the Japanese sty;e. No Jap would ever think of spoiling tea with sugar and milk, so the Star reporter, in order to get fully in sympathy with the Japanese, took the clear, yellowish-colored liquid straight and found it a delightful beverage.
And then the saki!
Prof. Hitchcock produced his bottle—a long slender Japanese bottle, and filled two little cups with it, and the professor and the reporter sat at the table facing each other. Then they raised the cups to their lips and silently pledged each other. Prof. Hitchcock's two-years' residence in Japan has enabled him to swallow his saki without wincing. He even says he likes it. The reporter gulped down his saki and vainly tries as a matter of courtesy to conceal the puckering grimace that the muscles about his mouth insisted upon forming.
"Still," he said, in deference to his host, "there is something in it that one might acquire a liking for."
" You mean the alcohol, I presume," said the professor dryly, and the reporter recognized then that he had come across an old acquaintance in this Japanese compound.
Then the professor, having thus smoothed the way, put himself at the reporter's service.
What the reporter wanted was to take a little journey to Japan and go into a Japanese house and see just how the Japanese lived.
In a long and spacious case in the north hall of the museum is arranged a collection which Professor Hitchcock brought home with him. These are Japanese household articles. One could completely furnish a Japanese house from this case. There are all the kitchen utensils, matings for the floor, beds, pillows, warmers, toilet sets, writing cabinets all the paraphernalia for a Japanese dinner, smoking sets, saki sets, paintings to hang like banners on the wall, night lights and little shrines before which devout shinto worshippers can kneel in prayer.
Everything seemed to the reporter's unaccustomed eye to be on a dainty doll house scale, but the articles on the collection are just what are actually used by the Japanese. The reporter had only to construct in his imagination a Japanese house, and Prof. Hitchcock took him through the structure and pointed out the objects of interest and explained their uses.
The mysteries of a Japanese lady's toilet are all exposed in the collection.
There is a toilet stand or case with its round and highly polished metallic mirror. The toilet stand might do for a good-sized American doll or baby. The Japanese maiden will get down on her knees or sit upon a mat spread before the case. there are little drawers for her combs and pins. She has a good many wooden combs of different shapes. In one little jar is kept the pigment with which a married woman blackens her teeth, a practice which is going out of fashion. This coloring matter is applied with a feather brush. In a little saucer on the stand is a quantity of red aniline dye with which she heightens the color of her lips. The Japanese belle uses many arts, and has a large assortment of cosmetics. They have powder and reuse, and paint and delicate, soft brushes, with which to apply them. Some of their powdering and painting is done in a fantastic way, and not apparently for the purpose of counterfeiting a beautiful natural complexion. Prof. Hitchcock said he had seen a young Japanese woman with powder or paint laid on in streaks or in the shape of diamonds all around their necks. The toilet outfit also includes perfumery, a coil or two of the paper twine or string made so neatly by the Japanese, and a stick of pomatum. The string is used in tying the hair, which is rubbed with the pomatum until it is glossy and stiff. The dressing of the hair is not undertaken everyday. It is something in the nature of a permanent improvement, and the Japanese woman puts on enough pomatum to make the hair shine and keep in place for some days. This is one reason why the little wooden pillows or head-rests are used.
On a pillow such as one expects to find in an American house, the hair would become mussed, and it would be necessary to dress it every day. A Japanese pillow is a mere block of wood or a roll that fits under the head at the base of the skull and keeps it up off the floor. Another toilet article like the stand itself is on such a small scale as to almost escape notice. This is a dainty towel, hardly big enough to cover one's face.
A Japanese bed is the matting that covers the floor. At bed-time several blankets or quilts are produced. One is rolled out on the matting-covered floor and forms the mattress. The pillow, as stated above, is either a small block of wood or a wooden structure, like a miniature saw-horse, intended to fit at the nape of the neck. Some more luxurious ones are rolls or little round cushions made of some soft material. When the Japanese or his visitor stretches himself out on his blankets and lays his head on this executioner's block for a pillow he draws over him one, two, or half a dozen blankets, according to his fancy and the temperature of the air about him. In cold weather, Japanese houses are anything but comfortable, as no arrangements are made for heating them. The Jap, however, proposes to be comfortable in his bed, and he provides himself with a bed-warmer. This is a grated box or case, with a receptacle inside, in which charcoal is burned. He puts the charcoal stove under his blanket, near his feet and wraps his limbs about it. The Japanese will sleep this way all night. Another simpler form of bed-warmer is merely an earthen jar with a handle, which is not protected by the grated box. The live coals are placed in this, and sometimes they set fire to the bedding and to the house. It is a somewhat difficult thing to get warm in a Japanese house when one has got thoroughly chilled. There are no stoves and no heating apparatus intended to warm a whole house. Indeed, the Japanese has his hibachi, a kind of brazier made in different forms. In this there will be a few coals of charcoal. It will be brought into the room and one can get a little warmth from them. A warmer used in shops is an oblong box, one end having a compartment for ashes and charcoal, and the other having a receptacle for a tea-set. By the coals in this box one will warm his hands or light his pipe. When a person gets real cold, the only thing to do is to call for blankets and a bed-warmer and sit, coddled up in the blankets, with his legs wrapped around the bed-warmer.
When he goes to bed at night the Jap must have his smoking utensils within easy reach, and also his night light or little lamp set within a box-like screen of paper. If he wakes up in the night he reaches out for his pipe, lights it by the live coal buried in the ashes of a little jar provided for the purpose, takes a few puffs and goes to sleep again.
Nearly all Japanese women as well as men smoke. The smoking sets are made in many styles, though the pipes are much like. Many of them are prettily ornamented. The straight stems are of reed, tipped with metal, and the bowls, which are very small, about half the size of an ordinary thimble, are of metal. The man's pipe has a shorter stem than that used by a woman. Otherwise the pipes are alike. The man uses a short stem for convenience sake, as he carries his pipe in a case which he thrusts in his belt. Attached to this case by cords is a pouch for tobacco and generally a Netsuke, a charm, or little figurine of carved ivory, which hangs down like a watch-charm. The smoking set includes the little jar for charcoal and a cuspidor. This cuspidor is merely a joint of bamboo, cut off so as to make a cylindrical box, one end being closed. This the Japanese smoker, when he desires to expectorate, raises to his lips. Though the custom seems odd to an American, Prof. Hitchcock said it was much less disgusting than the American habit of discharging saliva at a spittoon at long range.
The Japanese tobacco is fine and stringy, looking something like American fine cut or straight cut. It is put up in rolls of different sizes, bound with paper, the ends being open so as to expose the tobacco. The little pipe bowls hold only a pinch of this tobacco, enough to give three or four good whiffs. Then the Jap knocks the bowl so as to empty the ashes into his hibachi or cuspidor. If he is traveling he probably knocks the bowl against the toe of his wooden show. He will fill his pipe many times. When he has empties his pipe and filled it he will scoop up the hot ashes again upon the fresh tobacco in the bowl, and thus get a new light.
A saki set for ceremonial usage comprises a little stand with a tray-like top and three flat saucer-like cups fitting into one another. Such a set is used in the marriage ceremony and, in fact, its use constitutes nearly all there is to the ordinary marriage ceremony.
(Ed. Note: "Wanna go for a drink?" "Does that mean we are now engaged?" - I think it's actually a bit more complex than that, but the point is made.)
The bride and groom are placed so as to front each other on opposite sides of an apartment. The cups are inverted on the stand. Two attendants take the first cup off, and standing beside the bride, fill it with saki and hand it to the bride who drinks. Then the cup is filled for the groom and he drinks. The same ceremony is gone through with each of the other cups. The top of the stand is perforated with slits, so that any of the saki that may spill out from the cups is drained off into a receiving basin constructed for the purpose in the interior of the stand.
On another stand near this saki set is a package supposed to have been brought into the house as a present or gift. It is wrapped neatly in paper tied with colored threads, and underneath the threads where they cross is thrust a little bit of fancy paper folded into the shape of a spear-head. The paper thus folded indicates that the parcel contains a present. On the paper wrapper is an inscription in Japanese characters.
The common dining set looks like an equipment for a toy house. The table is about 8 inches high and its top is a tray about 8 inches square. Every person has his own table. He sits on his cushion, and the servant, a neatly dressed Japanese girl, brings him not his dinner only, but his dinner table. There is no common dining-room in a Japanese house or hotel. The dinner is served wherever the guest wants it. When he comes into the house he is served with tea. The tea is kept handy in a metal canister, and a kettle for hot water is placed on the hibachi. The servant uses uses much ceremony in serving the tea. After pouring the hot water upon he leaves and filling the cup, she places it upon a little metallic holder, and with a bow pushes it within reach of the guest. Then next she provides a tobacco set, so the guest can smoke if he wishes. Dinner is then served on the little table or tray. On this tray will be several little covered vessels or dishes, in fact about all that it will hold. In front, nearest the guest, in the right-hand corner is a lacquer bowl filled with miso soup. At the left is a porcelain bowl for rice. On the other side of the tray is a lacqer bowl in which soup, vegetable stew or a fish stew will be served. Beside this is a porcelain plate on which probably fish will be served either broiled or raw. In the middle is a little cup for Soy or Shoyu, a dark-colored sauce like Worcestershire sauce in appearance. Salmon, trout and other kinds of fish are served raw frequently with little strips of radish. The diner takes up with his chopsticks a slice of fish and radish and then dips them in the sauce before carrying them to his mouth. Toward the end of the meal he will remove the saucer-shaped top from his rice bowl and pass it to the attendant, who will place on it usually four slices of some kind of preserved or pickled vegetable. This he will eat as a relish with his rice. The odor is strong and objectionable to foreigners, but one zoom acquires a taste for it, and it becomes an indispensable table article with rice.
The chopsticks are usually of wood and about 10 inches long. Incased in a little paper sheath, they are placed on the table or tray with the dinner. The cheaper and commoner chopsticks given to a guest at a hotel are supposed to be used only at one meal. They are merely cedar sticks. Some of the chopsticks, however, are lacquered, and when the guest has finished eating with such a pair he wipes them on a napkin. Chopsticks like those, when used, are left in the guest's room to be used by him whenever he has a meal served. The chopsticks are grasped both between the thumb and index finger. The middle finger is thrust between them to form a fulcrum, and then the chopsticks are used like a tiny pair of tongs, with which morsels of food are picked up. The Japanese food is all so well prepared and served that a knife is not needed. Meats are generally hashed.
All through the meal the dainty Japanese serving girl sits close at hand to be of service if she is needed. She has with her a rice bowl from which to replenish the supply of rice in the lacquer bowl on the table. If the guest passes his bowl to be replenished, the girl always takes two dips at the rice with her flat ladle, even if the guest is satisfied with but one ladelful. The second dip in such case is a ceremonial dip, and only a few grains of rice may be taken, but the custom of making two dips has been firmly established for ages, and anything less would be a grave violation of table etiquette and hospitality. If the guest orders saki for his dinner a little saki set is brought, comprising two bottles and cups, holding about one and one-half ounces each.
The Japanese kitchen is an exceedingly primitive affair. The cooking stove or range is almost a furnace made of plaster, with three separate compartments in which fires are made with sticks of wood. Over each compartment is a piece for setting a kettle or pot. This stove has no draft or chimney. The smoke comes out of the opening in front and fills the kitchen. When the cook wants the fire to burn faster she blows on it through a hollow reed or bamboo, or else fans it with a little fanned made for the purpose. At one end of the range is the pot in which the rice is boiled. It has a wooden top with heavy blocks of wood for handles. On top of this pot is a flat wooden ladle used in dishing the rice. The rice is boiled so that its grains keep their shape. It is never made into a mush. In the vessel placed in the centre of the stove stews are made and at the next of this, or at the left hand of the stove, is a kettle used for hot water, with the wooden dipper used in serving it out. On the wall and shelves near by are the knives used in chopping meats, graters for grinding up radishes and other vegetables, sieves, and different culinary utensils. A basin with a long wooden stick is used in preparing the miso, or bean soup. The miso is mixed with hot water in the basin and stirred with the stick. This forms the soup stock. The Japanese water bucket has a handle made by inserting a crosspiece between two of the staves which are prolonged above the others. A wooden dipper with a long handle is used in taking the water from the bucket.
The Japanese housekeeper does not use a market basket, but instead has a box about 10 inches square, with a bale or handle and a lid.
In the exhibition case near the stove stands a "safe," in which food is placed for safe keeping from flies or other insects. It is a diminutive affair, with a shelf inside and sides and door covered with fine netting.
The Jap's writing-desk, like the lady's toilet set, seems to be made for very little people. The Jap does not sit in a chair to write, but kneels before his cabinet or squats on the floor. The cabinet contains a number of dainty little drawers, in which are kept paper, ink, brushes and pencils. On the top of the cabinet is a tray for the ink. One little vessel contains water, in which the stick of India ink used in writing is moistened. The stick thus moistened is rubbed upon a pad from which it is taken up on a finely pointed brush with which the writing is to be done. Some of the paper comes in rolls, and as the Japanese writes his characters in vertical rows, he unrolls his paper and keeps on unrolling until he has written all he wants to write, and then, if it is a letter, he tears the paper written upon from the roll, folds it up and sends it away. Some paper used by Japanese women is made in fancy styles with figures or flowers painted or printed on it in colors.
When the guest in a Japanese house gets up in the morning, he performs his ablutions with cold water, by means of a little tub-shaped wooden basin, set, perhaps, outdoors where the neighbors can take note of his doings. He will have a towel given to him so small that he may lose it if he does not keep a careful watch on it.


This was a charming description of a few simple elements of being Japanese that the average person/blogger probably simply doesn't think (even now) to communicate to others, probably because he is too busing trying to fug anything Japanese in a skirt that moves or looks like it might move at some point in time in the the future.

The last paragraph of the very long article (it's long because I had to retype it letter by letter) was the most amusing to me, as you can almost see the reporter grinning with devilment as he reveals that the Japanese washes himself in the morning - PERHAPS outdoors where the neighbors can take note of his doings. I think he meant to write 'dong', but what do I know?

Somewhere looking for my tiny wash cloth bath towel… let's see I was cleaning buttoc---aw crap!
Andrew Joseph

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