Inoue's bed

Meiji intellectual and yōkai-ologist Inoue Enryō 井上円了 wrote many books [PDF], but one of the more obscure ones is Kairyō shin'an no yume 改良新案の夢, "Dream of New Reform Proposals." This was a short collection of essays outlining his ideas for improved blackboards, lighting, abacus technique, anti-seasickness measures, etc. Here is an unpolished translation of essay 31, about shindai (literally "sleeping platform," usually correspoding to English "bed").

Hearing someone muse once that if one made a shindai in the closet and at night simply went inside and slept there one would eliminate the inconvenience of laying out and then putting away one's futon every day and simplify one's life greatly, I found myself in agreement with the idea; and yet to put it into practice the sliding closet door (fusama) must be improved. In summer winter, if one were to close the door to sleep, the warmth would be rather convenient, but at the same time one would have to improve the circulation of the air. In summer, to prevent attack by mosquitos, a mosquito net would have to be hung before the door. Accordingly, I have a different proposal: the use of the tokonoma as a shindai. The closet is used for storing a range of things, but the tokonoma has no role in the room outside its aesthetic one. As a result, although it is used for decorative purposes during the day, by night it remains unused. Thus, I propose making the tokonoma one step higher than usual, creating a shindai within it, and covering this in turn with a board which can be removed at night, allowing one to recline at one's ease. This is another new proposal.

This is kind of like finding it so bothersome to make the bed every morning that you replace your mantlepiece with a deep, narrow recess in the wall, containing a large horizontal board on casters that fits mostly inside by day and rolls out to sleep on by night.

(By which I mean, a marvelous idea whose time has surely come.)

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Tim May:

That sounds like a great book. Should the first instance of "summer" read "winter", though?


It sure should! Fixed.

Aime la vérité, mais pardonne à l'erreur

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