Modern-day Japanese bathrooms are quite different from American bathrooms where convenience and speed seem to be the emphasis. The Japanese tend to slow things down in the bathroom, enjoying the experience and treating the time in the bathroom as something of a vacation getaway. In fact, over 80 percent of people in Japan take a soothing soak in the bathtub for at least 30 minutes a day.
1. Embracing Minimalist Design
Traditional Japanese bathrooms are nothing short of a serene scenic journey into a misty rainforest. With attention to color, design, placement and utility, the Japanese really focus on creating a peaceful space that is useful yet pleasing. Soft brown and gray walls, silver, white and black appliances and smooth granite surfaces are all trends in modern Japanese bathroom design.
Mimicking nature is another way the Japanese bring the peace and serenity of nature into the home. Faucets that replicate the flow and sound a rushing waterfall, and smooth beach pebbles in place of titled floors or walls, are common modern Japanese designs that American homes could easily adopt in place of stark white walls with chilly tiled floors in rooms that look more like a sanatorium than a bathroom.
2. Bathing for Pleasure, Showering for Cleaning
Bathing in Japan is not just for getting clean. The Japanese bathtub, known as ofuro, plays an important role in Japanese culture. Bathing in Japan is a daily ritual for many, one that is done to relieve stress and promote health. In fact, the Japanese clean themselves in the shower area adjacent to the tub before even getting into the bathtub.
The tub area is typically lined with tile, with a seat fixed to one wall with a flexible hose for “showering.” Japanese baths are also deeper and much warmer than Westerners may be used to, since the tub is for soaking and not bathing. Keeping water warm, or hot, is also essential as it is tradition that multiple members of a family may reuse the same water to soak. Modern bathtubs can even be programmed to automatically fill with water of a particular temperature, at a given time.
3. Separating Business and Pleasure
The typical Japanese bathroom consists of two rooms: an entrance room where you undress, and the actual bathroom with the shower and bathtub. The toilet is almost always located in a separate room altogether, as it quite taboo to have the toilet in the same room where you get clean and relax.
The bathtub area is installed in a fairly large room, sometimes equipped with a “changing area” beside it, if not in another room. The actual bathroom is kept quite sanitary, with most bathrooms completely tiled in, with floor drains and a ventilation system to keep the room from getting damp or moldy. While the Japanese enjoy the benefits of heat and water in the bathroom, they are also conscious of leaving the room dry and warm to avoid any harmful mold or dampness. Some more modern bathrooms even come with built-in heated dryers and automatic self-cleaning functions.
4. Enjoying Rejuvenating Mist Saunas
Since the Japanese view the bathroom as a room for health and wellbeing in addition to cleanliness, many modern bathrooms are built with a mist sauna, which fills the bathing area with tiny drops of hot water, washing away any impurities and improving circulation.
The mist sauna is a safer way of bathing than a dry sauna because the heat stress of dry saunas may be stronger than that of mist, and can lead to dehydration and hypovolemia by sweating.
The mist sauna can be purchased as an add-on to an existing bathroom so it doesn’t necessarily have to be installed, and works by heating tap water using circulating heating water that is then sprayed from a mist nozzle.
One major benefit beyond the health and purification benefits is convenience. If you don’t have time to get into the bathtub or shower off, a mist bath allows you to quickly feel the same relaxation and cleaning effects as if you had taken a soak in the tub.
5. Tossing the TP for a Bidet
Just as the Japanese are health-conscious when it comes to bathing, they are equally health-conscious when it comes time to use the toilet, and just as you won’t find the toilet next to the bathtub, you typically won’t find a traditional porcelain Western toilet in a Japanese home at all. Most European and Asian countries use what’s called a bidet. A bidet is a special plumbing fixture or accessory that allows the user to use water to wash after going to the bathroom instead of toilet paper and then flushing that toilet paper down the drain.
Bidets are very sanitary, economically smart and quite eco-friendly too; not to mention that a steady stream of warm water feels much better than a wad of scratchy toilet paper on your bum. Most bidets also have customizable features that allow you to control the temperature and pressure of the water.
6. Using Unique, and Clean, Accessories
Since the bathroom is a place of rest and relaxation, why not have some features like a waterproof TV or peaceful serene music playing the background while soaking in the tub? The Japanese do it right when it comes to all of the accessories in a bathroom as well, from cleaning accessories to entertainment.
Going with the whole idea of cleanliness, many Japanese bathrooms do not use the traditional bath mat made of cotton or polyester but instead use Hinoki cypress wood bathmats that are antibacterial and emit a very fresh scent.
When showering, or cleaning off before getting into the bathtub, most Japanese people use charcoal soap and a washcloth that is long and thick and held at both ends for scrubbing. No loofas for the Japanese. But they also use massage brushes and scrubbing brushes in addition to the washcloth.
7. Saving Energy and Reusing Water
Although the Japanese enjoy their heat and water, they are also mindful of conserving heat and water where they can. One innovative design some more modern Japanese homes have is the Flowpia Mahobin bathtub, which keeps bath water warm for hours without consuming any energy. In fact, this double-insulated design is actually four times better at retaining heat.
The Japanese are also naturally great at water conservation, since it is tradition to share bath water among multiple members of the family, something Westerners would never dream of doing.
Another way the Japanese conserve water is by not showering like Westerners. They do not stand under a steady stream of hot water for an extended period of time, instead using a hose with just the amount of water they need to cleanse themselves.