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