On the airplane, I just saw a really really interesting NHK program about Japanese baths and bathtubs.
Basically, Japanese people love their baths – I understood this, but never exactly why. It’s really important! Even when I meet a student for the first time, their questions are typically, “Where are you from, what Japanese food do you like, have you ever traveled around Japan, do you like Japanese hot springs?” (i.e. outdoor bath resorts)
Here is what I learned:
1) Baths are places for the family to bath together and spend family time together. The hosts of the show interviewed this family, and showed the father bathing with his 3 year old son and 7 year old daughter. All naked together. And they were playing games using water proof alphabet stickers on the walls, and math stickers. They said it’s very common for them to bath together, and the guest foreigners from other countries all said, “Oh no, we never saw our parents naked, certainly not of the opposite sex. Maybe when we were 2, but after that, it’s too old.”
2) The very construction of the bath is important. Japanese baths are not long and shallow, but deep and narrow, so it’s easy to have the water come up to your chin. Modern ones also have reheat buttons. See, you wash yourself on the tiled floor next to the tub, and then only use the water in the tub to soak, so it’s relatively ‘clean.’ So all family members use the water. There’s a pecking order of who in the family uses it first.
3) The hosts of the show showed how the unit bath was invented! Usually, there are two rooms: one for the toilet and one for the sink and bath tub. Small apartments, like mine, have them all together, but it’s fixed so there is a single drain in the floor that the sink and tub drain into. This was invented because in 1962-1963, Japan was preparing to host the Olympics and had to build huge hotels in a hurry. However, it was impossible to do all the installation and plumbing in time and compactly, so this one guy invented this style of unit bath.
4) The hosts visited this one man who built his bath room on the second floor which was open in the living room! There was just no wall, only blinds. And it faced a huge glass window, though which you could see maple trees, flowers and cherry trees, so it showed very traditional Japanese seasonal plants.
5) Another fellow had a super old like…clay or metal circular basin-like tub, that you actually had to chop the wood and heat by actual fire outside. The foreigner was like “Why?!?” and the Japanese man said, “It’s because it takes the effort and is cold, that you can enjoy the hot bath more!” and the wife said the same thing. “I can’t stop!” she said.
See, that is a very Japanese way of thinking, and I notice stuff like this all the time, that I just don’t agree with personally. lol
For me, I wash myself to get clean. I sit in the Jacuzzi in Gold’s Gym to help my aching muscles. I don’t have time to just sit and relax. Even if I do have time, I have ADD and I can’t sit still. I am not joking. Lol Once I told my student that the bath was boring, and they looked at me like I was from Mars, and were disappointed. After seeing this program, I think I gained a new understanding of baths, and that they ARE VERY important to Japanese people, much more so than us foreigners. So I’m just going to tell people I don’t have time, rather than ‘it’s boring’ or I’m saying some sacrilege about their culture.
6) They also examined many bath goods. There are water proof ipod holders, book holders, floating candles and glowing jelly-fish that enhance the bathing and make relaxing enjoyable.…Details