In Japan, the practice of taking a bath is about more than just getting clean. Western culture promotes the purposeful routine of a brisk morning shower to wake up and clean off before starting the day, but bathing in the Japanese style is a restorative, cherished tradition. Taking inspiration from this sensuous ritual, though, you can incorporate some of the techniques of a Japanese bath into your own evening routine. Not only will you thoroughly cleanse your body, you’ll indulge your senses, relax your mind and your muscles, and prepare yourself for a recharging, healthful sleep.
Although your bathroom is likely much different from a traditional Japanese bath, follow these steps to experience a leisurely bathing ritual in more of a Japanese style. Keep in mind that this process is generally performed in the evening, to stimulate the sympathetic nervous system and promote a sensation of deep relaxation.
Gather together the tools you’ll need for a Japanese-style bath – a bucket, loofah, brush, sponge, skin products, oils, or bath salts – into a tidy basket and bring them into the bathroom. Take a few minutes to clean anything out of the bathroom that doesn’t belong, and drink some water before stepping into the bathroom. It will get steamy, and you want to ensure you are well hydrated.
Remove your clothes and hang a cotton robe on a hook or bar in your bathroom, to keep it clean and dry until you’re done with your bath. Turn on the water and run yourself a bath. The water should be fairly hot, and you are welcome to add oils or salts to make the experience more enjoyable. Soaps and shampoos, however, are not allowed in the tub.
If you have a separate shower, use that to rinse off and clean your body before your bath. If not, set a towel on the floor and use your bucket, soap, sponge, loofah, and brushes to thoroughly cleanse your body. Make sure you’ve rinsed off all the dirt and soap before you get in the tub – your bath isn’t about getting clean.
If you plan to continue this practice, you might want to consider purchasing a small stool to make this process more enjoyable. Traditional Japanese bathing involves sitting on a stool while you clean yourself. Keep in mind that the water you are washing with should not go into the clean tub.
Test the temperature with your foot before submerging your body so you can adjust to the heat. If you need to, build up to a hotter bath over a week or so to let your body get used to the warmer temperatures. This is supposed to be an atmosphere of quiet and relaxation, so don’t listen to loud music or engage in conversation. Leave your phone in another room, and if you want to indulge with some soothing music, keep the volume down and let it help you relax into the warm water.
Inhale the steam coming off the water and let it help clear your nasal passages, ease your breathing, and soothe your respiratory system. Feel the water relaxing your tense, aching muscles. Breathe into these sensations and let your body unwind completely into the tub. If you practice meditation, this is a good time to focus and clear your mind. The Japanese bathing experience should be one of complete relaxation.
After your soak, rinse your body with cooler water and wrap yourself in your clean, cotton robe. In Japan, bathers wear a lightweight cotton kimono called a “yukata,” but this can easily be replicated at home. Drain the tub and clean up any mess or clutter before retreating from the bathroom. You’re ready to have dinner and enjoy a quiet night at home, after scrubbing and soaking away the cares of the day.
Now that you understand the ritual of Japanese-style bathing, incorporate this soothing practice into your evening routine to enjoy it regularly. You’ll find that you sleep better, feel more rested and energetic, and reconnect with your body and mind. You may even want to consider installing a traditional Japanese tub in your own bathroom, to truly embrace the benefits of this indulgent style of bathing.