I always wondered why the symbol “ゆ” (said “yu”) was on the door to the bath house. I asked my Japanese teacher, and he wasn’t sure so I did a little research.
The symbol is used on the entrance to 温泉 (onsen) and 銭湯 (sento), or Japanese bath houses. The word “yu” is translated to “hot water”. So, makes sense to be on a bath house, yes?
Then I did more reading. During the Edo period, these public baths became popular for men because of women who worked at these communal baths, and functioned as prostitutes as well as bath attendants. These bath houses were called “yuna baro”. The woman were known as 湯女, or “yuna”. This directly translates to “hot water woman”. Guess what the woman who ran this bath house would be called?
Yubaba. (translates directly to “hot water old woman”)
Yubaba is the name of the woman who runs the bath house in Spirited Away. If you watch Spirited Away in Japanese, the female workers are referred to as yuna.
Chihiro was forced to change her name to Sen. Kinda like how strippers get names like “Candy”.
カオナシ(No-Face) keeps offering Chihiro money. He “wants her”.
THEN I read interviews with Miyazaki. This was all put in intentionally. Miyazaki’s stories are filled with underlying themes and metaphors. He said he was tackling the issue of the sex industry rapidly growing in Japan, and that he felt children being exposed to it at such early ages was a problem.
This can be frustrating because so much gets lost in translation, and people see it as this cute children’s movie and this “masterpiece of animation” (which it definitely is) instead of understanding the deeper meaning behind it.
It has never been easy. When I was sixteen, I knew every potentially fatal thing in my house: Nail polish remover under the sink. Bottle of rubbing alcohol beside it. Hammer in the tool box. Forty foot bridge across the highway. Traffic outside my window.
I thought about slamming my own head against a counter until I lost feeling. I thought about punching myself in the face until I stopped breathing. I thought about running out into the street at two a.m. and waiting until a car came.
I never thought I’d make it to twenty-five. But I told myself to stay. Just for a little longer. Just to see.
So I did. I sat silent amongst my friends, searching for a way to speak. I stopped leaving my house. I swapped sleeping for staying up all night, staring at my bedroom walls. When someone came into my room to talk to me, I started crying. But I stayed. Because I thought, if I plan on dying in a few years anyway, what do I have to lose? And some days I didn’t feel like I was being swallowed whole. Some days I sat by my pool and sang until the sun set. Some days I kissed somebody on their parent’s couch and didn’t feel lonely when I got to my own bed. Some days I listened to a really great song and felt understood, if only for a second.
I stayed. And still I thought about bridges. And hammers to the head. And swallowing acetone to cleanse my insides. But slowly slowly slowly I began to understand that it was okay to cry, and shake, and feel anything but okay. I realized that there would still be days that my fist would rise to my cheek. And still, my face would sometimes resemble a bruised peach.
But now I tear up my lists of potentially ways to die before I complete them. I replace prescription: pills, rubbing alcohol, and razors with memories of the good days. Of holding your hand through the entire state of Oregon. Of running half-naked down a snowy street three New Year’s ago. Of riding go-carts in the Canadian wilderness. Of smoking cigarettes on the beach in San Francisco with someone I met six months ago. If I had left, we would not know each other.
If you feel the same way, stay. For the good days. And the sunsets. And the people out there who understand. Stay because being submerged in black water does not mean you have to drown. Stay. Just for a little longer. Just to see."
Stay | Lora Mathis
Erase the stigma behind mental illness. Being alive isn’t easy. We all have to help each other out. Losing Robin Williams to depression was a tragedy. Reach out to those around you and always offer help.
And I, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the starry
likeness, image of
felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke loose on the wind.
— Pablo Neruda, from “Poetry,” Neruda: Selected Poems (Houghton Mifflin, 1990)