volcanically heated “hot spring bath” (
). The public bath was once a very integral part of Japanese culture, but in recent years they have seen a decline in patronage, and arebecoming a much less common occurrence. Historically, most neighborhoods would have apublic bathhouse where neighbors and friends would bathe together. This was seen as abonding ritual, and was an integral aspect of daily life. In Japan, the act of bathing withfriends and family is believed to bring individuals closer to one another, and is a part of theJapanese c
oncept of “skinship”. Skinship,
broadly defined, is the idea of physical closeness,but has more recently been reserved for the act of bathing in company. Although foreignerssometimes mistake it as a sexual concept, the idea of skinship is entirely wholesome.
Another term the Japanese use to describe the closeness of bathing is “naked association,”
Hadaka no Tsukiai
). The idea behind
Hadaka no Tsukiai
is simple- while bathing, nothing ishidden, and the act of being unclothed amongst company facilitates friendlycommunication. This fosters intimacy and closeness, and forces people to interact on themost basic level- thereby promoting bonding and friendship. Both skinship and
are integral aspects of both
and onsen culture.In summation, the Japanese bath is a much more ritualistic and methodical processof relaxation rather than a method of purely cleaning the body. Japanese baths are as mucha tool for cleaning the body as they are for cleaning the mind and spirit- such conceptsharken back to the days of Buddhist theology, in which water, especially water from hot springs, was used as a method of ritual purification. These days, the bath is seen as a mereaspect of everyday life- and yet the traditions behind the Japanese bath have been foreverengraved into Japanese culture.