For many in Japan, bathing is more than a bath. It is akin to a meditative practice - a time to renew, revive, relax, and cleanse the soul. Beyond cleansing the body, the bath is viewed as a time and place to wash away the cares and worries of the day.
Bathing is done in two phases. The first step is to cleanse the body. Usually the cleanse is performed in a small shower, or by using splashes of bathwater scooped with a hinoki wood bucket before proceeding into the bathtub to soak. Either way, the idea is to always clean off the body before entering the bath. If traveling to Japan and using public baths or hot springs, this is an essential step that would be considered a social faux pas to skip. Cleansing before entering the bath is considerate of others and also allows for a more relaxing bath experience.
Soaking and relaxing in the bath is just that - pure enjoyment. This is a time and place to be present and reconnect with yourself after a busy day.
Bathing in a public Japanese bath or hot springs is almost always done in the nude. When traveling, try to keep in mind that in Japan, this is normal. There is no need to be self-conscious. The male and female baths are generally separate, and you will find your fellow bathers are simply relaxing and enjoying their soak. A small towel can be used for modesty’s sake, too.
Once in the bath, relax and enjoy yourself. Often, if one begins to break a sweat, they will step out of the bath and wash off again. This helps the body cool off. Take a moment here, as bathing does get the body’s energy flowing. Most often, a second soak is taken, as your body will have adjusted to the heat of the water.
A Short History
Japan is home to many volcanic hot springs. Naturally occurring hot water has always been plentiful in Japan, and bathing has always been a part of life.Since ancient times, water and bathing have been about more than getting clean - both are associated with cleansing the soul. It is not clear when or how the Japanese passion for bathing began. What is clear is that Shintoism, Japan’s native religion, and Zen Buddhism both associate water with spiritual purification. Shinto in particular uses a purification technique known as misogi which involves washing the entire body, often under ice-cold waterfalls in winter. The essence of this ritual has no doubt made its way into the underlying philosophy of Japanese bathing culture.
Types of Japanese Baths
Japan is home to thousands of natural mineral-rich hot springs, or onsen, both indoors and outdoors. The stunning outdoor baths are known as rotenburo, which translates to “bath amid the dew under the open sky.” Wander off the beaten bath and you will find hitou, "secret hot springs". Indoor baths which draw their water from onsen are know as uchiyu.
Ofuro are deeper versions of the western tub. The most desirable are made from aromatic hinoki cypress wood. Bathing at home in Japan is done in the evening, and is seen as an endcap to the day.
Sento are public baths that can either have a natural hot spring water source or, more often, a running water source. In Japan’s history, sento were seen as the center of community life. Since many people did not have baths at home, sento were frequented in the evening as a way for neighbors to connect, discuss the day’s events, and even gossip. As baths at home now are commonplace, the sento’s fate is yet to be determined. Sento do still have their loyal patrons, though popularity among younger people is waning.
Based on the time-honored wisdom of the Japanese bath, Amayori was created to bring the holistic experience of Japanese bathing rituals to your home. Through transportive fragrance collections, sumptuous body care, and Japan’s time-honored natural ingredients, bathing and body care become a soul-shifting, transformational experience that can provide a foundation for a tranquil life.
Our collections are inspired by the three main bath types: onsen, rotenburo, and ofuro. Our bathing rituals focus on emotional wellbeing through the self-care experience.
To discover our rituals, click here.