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How to Bathe, Japanese-Style

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How to Bathe, Japanese-Style

June 20, 2012

I lived in Tokyo for 10 years; long enough to become a devotee of the country’s bathing rituals. In Japan, a bath is more than just an act of cleansing; it’s also a means of relaxation and reflection, with roots in Shintoism beliefs.

According to Shinto principles, water purifies the body and washes away sins, but let’s not forget it’s also a fantastic way of winding down at the end of the day. When I first moved to Japan, I was unfamiliar with the protocol: no bather enters a bath until they have scrubbed themselves clean (it’s a custom that arose from the tradition of collective bathing in hot spring pools and local bath houses, where everyone shares the same water). As a result, bathrooms in hotels or in homes typically include a tub for soaking, adjacent to a low shower with a small stool for sitting and washing first.

I’ve become a lifelong devotee; here are some elements for recreating the Japanese bathing experience in your home:

700 japanese bath bucket

Above: When daily bathing in the local bath house was common practice, bathers would don a yukata and carry a bucket filled with their soap, shampoo, and washcloth. This Japanese Bath Bucket is made from cypress; $63 from Goods from Japan.

700 towel 4

Above: The Japanese don’t mess around: the skin is scrubbed head to toe with a washcloth held at either end. We like the look of this Linen Body Washcloth; ¥900 from Analogue Life. The washcloth is made from manually spun yarn and woven linen that has been made by the same company for over 300 years.

700 japanese massage brush

Above: When scrubbing is not enough, try the Japanese Massager Brush from Terrain $18.

700 charcoalsoap 2

Above: Charcoal Soap made from organic vetiver and myrtle oils by Babaghuri from Analogue Life for detoxing the skin: ¥1,200.

binchotan charcoal sticks

Above: No mineral water on hand? Try adding Binchotan Charcoals to the bath. The charcoal will absorb chemicals in tap water and enhance blood circulation in a hot bath; $20 from Terrain.

hinoki mat canoe

Above: Hinoki Bath Mat from Canoe; $50.

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