Ian Koll お風呂の作文 4/29/2012 The ritual of bathing has always been varied between different cultures.

It seems as though every culture has its own form of bathing etiquette, which has been established throughout the culture’s history. Japan has a very rich history of bathing etiquette, which dates back many years. The Japanese, when compared to other Western civilizations, have a very different approach to the idea of bathing. This essay will be focused on explaining the traditions of Japanese bathing, as well as the common etiquette associated with taking a bath in Japan. In Japan, the bath is predominately seen as a form of relaxation rather than a method of cleaning. Many Japanese people use the bath to relax after a long day, and bathe for purely therapeutic reasons. Traditionally, Western civilizations have used the bath as a method of washing- where a person washes their body in the bathtub, and soaks in the water they’ve used to wash themselves with. In Japan, however, the body is cleaned before entering the bath. This is usually done in a shower, which is commonly conjoined in some way to the room in which the bath is located. Traditionally, the body was cleaned with a separate basin of water, and the body was rinsed with a washbowl. The body must be completely clean before entering the bath- this is of the utmost importance, especially for larger families, as it is common for the same water to be used for every member of the family. Family members take turns when using the bath, and the bathtub is covered between uses, as to preserve the heat of the water. Japanese bathing etiquette can be broken down into several steps. The first step is to ensure that the body is clean before entering the bath. Washing is done prior to entering the bath, and no soap or shampoo

should be used in the bath itself. After ensuring the body is clean, one may enter or exit the bath as desired, but care should be taken as to not soil the water, as communal bathing is common, and many people often share the same water. Once the bather is done, the next member of the family or household will then begin their bathing process, and the cycle starts over until everyone has had their bath. Bathtubs in Japan have changed a lot over time. Traditional bathtubs were made of wood, and were made with steep sides. More modern baths may be made of plastic or tile, but wooden baths can still be found all throughout the country, especially in inns or other locations that attract visitors. Regardless, the majority of Japanese baths are box-shaped, and are substantially deeper than western baths. This allows bathers to fully submerge themselves in the water, for the purpose of propagating relaxation and improving circulation. Some higher-end Japanese baths utilize a recycling system, which reheats the water during continued use. This is especially useful for families in which many people use the bath at once. One notable difference between western and Japanese bathrooms is that, unlike western designs, the toilet is almost always in an entirely separate location from the bath- not only for the sake of hygiene, but also because the Japanese bath consists of two separate but equal elements that make fitting a toilet in the same room impossible. These elements are the bathtub, and the outer “washing area,” where one fills the washbasin and uses soaps and shampoos. The washing area, unlike western bathrooms, is designed to get wet, and it is for this reason that Japanese bathrooms almost always incorporate a watertight door, or separate entrance as to avoid flooding the hallway with overflowing water. It is not uncommon for Japanese people to take baths outside of the home. This is most commonly done in one of two ways- at either a public bathhouse (Sentō), or a

volcanically heated “hot spring bath” (Onsen). The public bath was once a very integral part of Japanese culture, but in recent years they have seen a decline in patronage, and are becoming a much less common occurrence. Historically, most neighborhoods would have a public bathhouse where neighbors and friends would bathe together. This was seen as a bonding ritual, and was an integral aspect of daily life. In Japan, the act of bathing with friends and family is believed to bring individuals closer to one another, and is a part of the Japanese concept 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 foreigners sometimes 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 is hidden, and the act of being unclothed amongst company facilitates friendly communication. This fosters intimacy and closeness, and forces people to interact on the most basic level- thereby promoting bonding and friendship. Both skinship and Hadaka no Tsukiai are integral aspects of both sentō and onsen culture. In summation, the Japanese bath is a much more ritualistic and methodical process of relaxation rather than a method of purely cleaning the body. Japanese baths are as much a tool for cleaning the body as they are for cleaning the mind and spirit- such concepts harken 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 mere aspect of everyday life- and yet the traditions behind the Japanese bath have been forever engraved into Japanese culture.

Works Cited: Cai, Yang. "“Skinship (裸の付き合い)” Japan’s Onsen Culture." Web.me.com. Web. 29 Apr. 2012. <http://web.me.com/tokumasu/Cai/Japanese.html>. "Japanese Guest Houses: Japanese Bathing Etiquette." Japanese Guest Houses. Rediscover Japan. Web. 29 Apr. 2012. <http://www.japaneseguesthouses.com/about/ryokan/bathing.htm>. McFedries, Paul. "Skinship." Word Spy. Logophilia Limited. Web. 29 Apr. 2012. <http://www.wordspy.com/words/skinship.asp>. "Public Baths in Japan." Japan-guide.com. Web. 29 Apr. 2012. <http://www.japanguide.com/e/e2074.html>. "お風呂 Bath." Tjf.or.jp. The Japan Forum. Web. 29 Apr. 2012. <http://www.tjf.or.jp/eng/content/japaneseculture/04ofuro.htm>.

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