Bathing Traditions In Japan


Almost all Japanese take a bath nearly every day. In Western countries, “bathing” is more like washing in the shower, but in Japan, they don’t say that “bathing” here involves taking a bath. In Western countries, about 10% of people use a bath, in Japan, as studies show – 70-80%, and in families with small children – more than 90%. Less than 10% only shower throughout the year, which means that almost all Japanese people take baths.

The Japanese bathroom next to the deep bath provides enough space for washing, and the toilet is in a completely different room. Many Japanese first thoroughly wash their body and hair with soap and shampoo and then sit in the bath. Since it is used after washing, the water in the tub is not polluted, and the water is not changed until all family members have taken a bath. Abroad, they may doubt the hygiene of such bathing, but in vain – the tub is not a place where they wash; it serves to warm up and relax. Small children bathe with their parents, and a bath is also a place for tactile communication.

If you are a real fan of the bath, we advise you to look at the bath caddy (f.e.: This unique device will become your genuine assistant in the bathroom!

Japan is the land of onsen

In Japan, bathing in a bath is called o-furo. The Japanese take a bath almost every day, and according to the Jiji Chushin Public Opinion Survey on Bathing in 2004, 80 to 90% of people answered that they enjoy taking baths. Baths are preferred in Japan because of the favorable natural conditions – there are many thermal springs (onsen), which make it possible to use a large amount of hot water for bathing.

In Japan, on its small territory, there are about 27,000 thermal water sources. In Europe and the USA, the maximum number of such sources in one country is about 200 – compared to Japan, the difference is two orders of magnitude. Therefore, since ancient times, it was easy to get hot water in large quantities here, which probably led to the popularity of bathing in baths. In the mythological and chronicle collection “Annals of Japan” (Nihon shoki), written about 1300 years ago, there are records that the emperors visited onsen even then.

These days, heaters allow you to get hot water by simply turning on the tap, but such devices have been in use for only a few decades. When there were no water heaters, it was difficult to get a large amount of hot water without hot springs in many countries, and ordinary people could not rest in hot water.

The love of the Japanese for baths is due, among other things, to a religious factor. In Japan, Buddhism spread, and in it, the provision of “bathing” (施浴, seiaku) is considered one of the good deeds that can be done to others. The oldest bath in Japan is located at the Todaiji temple in Nara, famous for its statue of the Great Buddha. There are sutras explaining the merits of taking a bath, which has given rise to the notion of bathing as one of the “virtuous deeds” that seems to have been expressed in the long-standing custom of bathing.

Medical Aspects of Baths: Reducing the Risk of Brain and Heart Disease

Recently, the health benefits of this ingrained Japanese habit of frequent bathing have come to light. In 2018, I did a study with Chiba University, and a survey of 14,000 older people over three years showed that bathers every day, compared with people who use the bath twice a week or less, are at risk of falling into a state where special care is needed. Maintenance, 30% less.

Thus, even without doing heavy muscle training, you can avoid the risk by simply taking a bath every day with pleasure. The health benefits of baths found in the study were even more significant than expected.

In 2020, they published a study by a group from Osaka University, which observed 30,000 adults for almost 20 years. The results are essential for the epidemiology of noncommunicable diseases—those who bathed daily were found to have a nearly 30% lower risk of stroke or myocardial infarction than those who took baths two or fewer times a week, making baths more likely to be associated with high blood pressure. Japanese life expectancy.

Baths improve blood circulation and promote physical and mental relaxation

The main therapeutic effects of the bath are heating, body buoyancy, and hydrostatic products. The body is also cleansed, but the same applies to the soul, and the effects mentioned above are unattainable without immersion in the bath.

The warming effect is observed when the body is heated in the bath. It occurs only at a water temperature of 38 degrees and above, above body temperature. Staying in hot water warms up the body, blood vessels dilate, and blood circulation improves. The blood carries oxygen and nutrients to the approximately 37 trillion cells throughout the body and carries away unwanted carbon dioxide and waste products. After the bath, you feel rested, tiredness disappears – this is considered the result of improved blood circulation.

Warming up also has an analgesic effect. Moderate heating of the body suppresses the sensitivity of the nerves; it can reduce chronic pain such as pain in the lower back and shoulders. In addition, the ligaments surrounding the joints, made of collagen and other proteins, become more elastic when heated, increasing the mobility of the joints. As a result, the plasticity of the body increases, and joint pain decreases. Many have reported that taking a bath one to two hours before bedtime helps them sleep better.

All this does not mean that the higher the temperature of the water, the better. According to many experimental results obtained in the study of Japanese, heating with water at a temperature of 42 degrees and above strongly stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, and the excitation of the sympathetic nerves causes an increase in heart rate, an increase in blood pressure, and muscle tension. Often a bath is taken to relax and relieve fatigue, so such effects are rather undesirable.

Immersion in a bath with a temperature of up to 40 degrees, on the contrary, stimulates the parasympathetic nerves, and their stimulation gives the effect of relaxation, reducing muscle tension, so it is recommended to take baths with a temperature of about 40 degrees. At the same time, it is worth noting that the feeling of hot water temperature between Japanese and Westerners differs by 2-3 degrees, and water that is pleasant for the Japanese at 40 degrees may seem a little excessively hot to them.

The buoyancy effect is the floating of the body. When immersed in the shoulders, the body weight is reduced tenfold, and a person weighing 60 kilograms in the bath has to support only 6 kilograms. Thanks to this, the muscles rest, a relaxing effect is observed.

The hydrostatic effect is because the body is subjected to water pressure, due to which, for example, under the influence of this pressure, stagnant venous blood leaves the legs, returns to the heart, edema subsides, and blood circulation improves

What is the best bathing method to keep you healthy? The primary way is to take water with a temperature of 40 degrees into the bath, dive up to your shoulders and spend ten minutes there. The appearance of sweat on your forehead indicates that your body has warmed up enough. You don’t need to think of anything special here; we recommend getting plenty of hot water and relaxing in the bath properly – this is especially true when the coronavirus is spreading, and in general, there are many reasons for stress.

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