Banya (番屋)

Banya (a simple lodging house)

They were stations for guards (jishinban) during the Edo period, who worked as vigilante corps (jikeidan), which made the history of firefighting in Japan. Banya often had lodges and a fire watchtowers, and were seen in major cities such as Edo, Osaka and Kyoto, and in castle towns in the countryside. Because local citizens took turns to work as guards, the tradition lives to this day, and many of these stations remain today as volunteer fire stations, which are bases for local security, or community centers. They can be also regarded as the origin of koban (police boxes).

Banya also means facilities for fishermen's lodgings and workshops set up along the coast near fishing grounds. They are still found today on remote islands of Japan and along the coasts of isolated areas in the mountains. Nishin-goten (herring castles) remaining along the coast of the Sea of Japan can be regarded as a type of banya. There are some banya now used as youth hostels (e.g. Momoiwaso Youth Hostel).

[Original Japanese]