Hot ex­pe­ri­ence

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIVING - SARAH MORI star2@thes­

a Ja­panese-style bath gives vis­i­tors an in­ter­est­ing glimpse of the coun­try’s cul­ture.

WHOA! The red mark­ing on the knob in­di­cated 40°C! How could one bathe at that tem­per­a­ture in the swel­ter­ing sum­mer heat? (Mind you, some even bathe in 42°C water.) That was my first ex­pe­ri­ence of a Ja­panese-style bath at my host’s home when I vis­ited Ja­pan in 1989.

The bath­room had an opaque glass door. My host’s par­ents had just cleaned and heated up the water in the ofuro (bath­tub). Us­ing ges­tures, they showed me how to take a bath.

A typ­i­cal Ja­panese bath­room com­prises two rooms: a chang­ing room (usu­ally equipped with a sink, a laun­dry ma­chine and a chest draw­ers or cabi­net for clean tow­els) and a bath­room in­stalled with a deep bath­tub, faucets for hot and cold water, a low shower head and some­times a mir­ror. The toi­let is nor­mally lo­cated in an en­tirely sep­a­rate cu­bi­cle.

Modern bath­rooms have con­trol panels that au­to­mat­i­cally fill the bath­tub with water of a pre­ferred tem­per­a­ture at a set time, and sep­a­rately set the tem­per­a­ture of the shower. Some lux­u­ri­ous bath­rooms have a Jacuzzi and small TV.

Af­ter leav­ing my clothes in the chang­ing room, I en­tered the bath­room and sat on the bath stool. I ad­justed the knob to lower the shower’s tem­per­a­ture.

Although there was a small plas­tic basin to col­lect hot water from the faucet for clean­ing one­self, I pre­ferred the shower. Af­ter sham­poo­ing my hair and soap­ing my body, I show­ered thor­oughly.

When I re­moved the bath­tub’s cover boards, steam rose from the ofuro, mak­ing the bath­room foggy. In­tim­i­dated, I gin­gerly tested the water with my hand. Ouch! It was 40°C. No won­der the Malaysian car­toon­ist, Lat, squat­ted on the edge of the bath­tub with trep­i­da­tion be­fore soak­ing in it at his Ja­panese host’s home. Rem­i­nisc­ing about that illustration in his book, Lots More Lat, made me chuckle.

Af­ter soak­ing for just a mo­ment, my head was buzzing as the heat per­me­ated my body. My skin turned pink.

It was far too hot for me, so I got out. I added too much cold water from the faucet and the ofuro over­flowed when I en­tered it again.

Bath salts con­tain­ing min­er­als, herbs or nat­u­ral fra­grances and dif­fer­ent colour­ing are some­times mixed with the bath­wa­ter. There are bath salts with spices like gin­ger or chilli. Bath salts can make the bath­wa­ter vis­cous af­ter a few days. Many peo­ple would rinse off af­ter get­ting out of the tub. De­spite not us­ing bath salts, some peo­ple still rinse off, since the bath­wa­ter has been used by oth­ers.

Tak­ing a hot bath at night be­fore bed­time

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