It’s the middle of winter. The day has been extremely cold, snowflakes being whipped around by the chilling wind. You finally get home to a freezing house (no central air/heat in Japanese houses)… what’s the first thing you want to do? Take a hot and relaxing bath!!
If you’ve ever been to Japan and have had the opportunity to stay in a Japanese home or at a Japanese-style inn, you’ve probably taken an “ofuro”… the Japanese way of taking a bath. (“The ONLY way to take a bath!” I’ve heard my mother say.) 🙂
Thought I’d add a picture to help with the explanation. This is a room which is completely separate from the toilet. The toilet is usually in a smaller room, all on it’s own. Before you go into the bathtub area, there is another space/room which is the changing area. In some homes, this space is where the washing machine is and there’s usually a sink where you’d wash your face, brush your teeth, etc.
From there, you’d go into the bathtub area. In this space, you can get as crazy as you want with the water and it won’t matter! As you can see in the picture, that space next to the tub is where you wash yourself. There’s a special seat (See the one with a hole in it? That’s the chair.) and there are special basins that you use to dip the hot water out of the bathtub to wash and rinse. And, of course, there’s a shower head for those who want to simply take a quick shower before soaking.
Now, the bathtub itself is now always very long. (In many cases, the older the house, the shorter the tub.) But the tubs are quite deep, so much so that when you sit in the tub, the hot water would be at shoulder-level or a little higher… unless many others have taken a bath before you.
Yes, you read that correctly! Everyone in the house uses that same water to soak in. (It’s not like everyone’s washing themselves in the same water since they should be clean by the time they get in the tub.)
The tub has a heating unit, so that if the water begins to get lukewarm, you can heat it up again without having to add more hot water. Pretty neat, right? But, because of this heating unit, it’s a no-no to have a bubble bath. (The soap messes up the components of the unit.)
You may notice in the photo that the water is not clear. Well, there are special powders which you can add to the water to help you relax. They come in various scents (types of trees, flowers, etc.) and in various colors. There are types which are said to help aching muscles and others that are supposed to help warm the body from the core and keep you that way throughout the night.
If you ever get the chance to visit, I hope you can experience taking a bath Japanese-style. Everyone deserves to take an authentic “ofuro” at least once in their lifetime! 🙂