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In the German version of the anime "Spirited Away", when Chihiro first sees the building where the ghosts go to bathe, the signs in Japanese (at the red tower and the flag) are translated as "Öl" (oil). I could not find any meaning to this. What does it mean?

As Valorum comments:

The bathhouse is called "Aburaya" (油屋). ("Abura" means "oil," and "ya" is the suffix used for a store.) The kanji sign "Aburaya" is seen above the gate of the bathhouse. The flag on the bathhouse also has the kanji character for "abura" (油).

So the name of the bathhouse is "Oil store". Is this without context and could be any name, or fits this special name in any kind best into this movie?

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  • It's the name of the bathhouse. Presumably in its earlier years the building was used as an oil-store (noting its convenient location along the river), then converted into a bathhouse.
    – Valorum
    Aug 7, 2020 at 15:27
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    My Japanese is still quite rudimentary, but if I understand the Wikipedia article about 油屋 correctly, the name alludes to Kumahachi Aburaya. This business man developed the famous Yufuin Onsen. Also, it's probably just a fitting name for a bathhouse that uses a lot of balms, ointments and the like. Aug 7, 2020 at 16:45
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    @HenningKockerbeck Thank you, this would make a good answer for me :) Aug 7, 2020 at 16:59
  • There's also the fact that the symbol for oil can also be used for "yu", which is the name of the owner of the bathhouse
    – Valorum
    Aug 7, 2020 at 17:10

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My Japanese is quite rudimentary, but according to the Wikipedia article about 「油屋」 the name refers to the business man Kumahachi Aburaya (1863 - 1935).

After Aburaya made, and lost again, a fortune speculating on the rice market, he went to the USA, Canada and Mexico for a few years. Later he returned to Japan and started running a hotel in the city of Beppu. To promote the hotel, he used many advertising ideas he had seen in the US, for example dropping leaflets from planes. He also put up signs that read something along the lines "The best of Japan: Mount Fuji, Seto Inland Sea, and Beppu Hot Springs" on Mount Fuji.

Aburaya also developed the hot springs resort in Yufuin, today a district of the city of Yufu. The Yufuin Onsen was said to rank second in the country regarding the amount and the number of hot springs.

Today, there's a statue of Kumahachi Aburaya near Beppu station. It's a famous tourist attraction and a popular meeting point.

Also, a name that translate roughly as "oil shop" or "oil vendor" seems fitting for a bathhouse that uses a lot of balms, ointments and the like.

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