The Japanese bath

This item appears on page 65 of the February 2009 issue.

I enjoyed reading Rick Steves’ article on culture shock (Dec. ’08, pg. 72). His comments on the Japanese bathing customs bear further discussion.

Yes, the Japanese “use clean water for every step of the bathing process,” but in most homes and ryokans, the bath itself is drawn early in the morning and left in the bathtub all day.

After one has washed and showered, one soaks (if one chooses) in the bath water that has been used by every other family member or guest at the inn. Indeed, there are notices on the bathroom doors in ryokans reminding Westerners not to drain the tub.

The process is described in detail on these websites (I like the first description best): (scroll down to “F. Taking A Japanese Bath”), and


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