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.