The Bath

Japanese houses don’t have central heating. (Well, to be fair, I’ve got one expat friend whose big house has central heating and air conditioning, but that’s very much the exception.) Mostly even fancy houses have individual heating/cooling units built into the ceilings. We’ve got a gas heater in the living room and there’s a kerosene stove in this room, otherwise my fingers would be frozen solid and that would be the end of this blog from autumn until spring. So basically, the living room and study are relatively warm and the rest of the house is colder than a witch’s snow cone.

Which is where the  bath comes in.


One showers outside the tub then climbs into it for a soak. The water is reheatable, so we can use it for a few days, which is both economical and kind to Mother Nature. The color comes from onsen powder. The rubber duckies and wind-up turtle are just for fun.

The Japanese take bathing very seriously. One of the few natural resources in abundance here is water, particularly hot spring water. There are hundreds of onsen hotels where one is expected to do nothing but eat and bathe. Generally, the baths have single-sex communal dressing and washing rooms and one or more large tubs for soaking.


Some of them have outdoor tubs which can be totally charming, especially if it’s snowing.

Everyone trots around naked and thinks nothing of it, although I do catch surreptitious glances as other women are curious about the relative size and color of certain anatomical areas. (I’m surprised by how many times I’ve had my boobs grabbed over the years, always by women and never when I’ve been naked. I guess they just want to know if they’re real.)

So my point is, there are those few moments of agony after getting undressed and while I’m waiting for the shower to get hot. So I’m giving away one million dollars to the first person who can tell me how one can take a shower without getting naked and wet.


6 thoughts on “The Bath”

  1. I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s caught folks taking a curious peak at my nether regions at the int’l spa…

  2. The bath is the one thing that scares me about moving to Japan and the main reason we are choosing to live in Navy housing. I get the communal bath idea but don’t the Japanese understand that it’s more than just skin sitting in the water? Bodily fluids .. that’s all I’m saying.

    1. Yeah, I agree. Accidents do happen sometimes. I always wash again after using a communal tub.

      You’re Navy? Where are you going, Yokosuka?

  3. I used to teach ESL and one day I was asking the class what activities do they do with their family when it’s cold out. One student from Japan told me they all take turns sitting in the bathtub. I kept asking her questions because I thought she was mistranslating some of the words, but now it all makes sense. No matter how much I love my family, I don’t think I’d sit in their old bath water.

    1. It’s not as gross as it sounds. You wash yourself thoroughly with the shower before you get into the tub. On the other hand, I have heard some pretty disgusting stories about “accidents” in public baths. Yuck.

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