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What Is a Japanese Shower?

Michelle Radcliff

The bathing ritual in Japan differs quite significantly from those of western cultures. Although a shower in Japan still rinses and cleans a person's body, it only represents half of the bathing ritual. Japanese showers also contain other aesthetic differences from the typical western shower. While the design appears more simplistic, modern Japanese showers use state-of-the-art technology for heating the water.

Japanese Bath Design

In the Japanese bathroom you'll find the dressing area with a sink separated from the bathing areas or the wet room. The second space contains the shower adjacent to the real focal point in the room, the Japanese deep soaking tub, the ofuro. You won’t find a separate enclosure for the shower, just a simple drain in the floor, a small stool or seat, a bucket and a small, handheld shower fixture. One of the most impressive features of a modern Japanese bathroom is its on-demand water heater, an efficient system which takes up very little space while supplying plenty of steaming hot water for both the shower and the soaking tub. The toilet is in a separate room.

The Art of the Bath

In the Japanese culture, bathing represents more than just cleaning; it is also intended for relaxation and rejuvenation of both mind and body, traditionally completed in the evening before sleep. Re-filling a soaking tub for multiple people each night would not be practical, so the water must be shared by the entire family. To keep the water clean, each person must first rinse off in the shower area. After soaking for a while in the tub, it is customary to step out again and clean the body with soap in the shower area. Once all the soap has been rinsed off, you can return to the tub for a final soak. The on-demand water heater is designed to re-heat the water in the soaking tub, so everybody enjoys a hot soak in the bath.

Natural Simplicity

Simplicity and a connectedness to nature merge at the heart of Japanese design. Natural materials and neutral color schemes create a comfortable atmosphere. Soaking tubs can be made from stone, concrete or wood. Some Japanese soaking tubs contain Hinoki wood with a soothing, lemony fragrance and natural bactericidal agents that help make them resistant to mold, decay and rotting. Other alternatives include teak, red cedar and modern materials such as fiberglass, stainless steel, copper and porcelain. Natural lighting may come from a skylight, or from a window that overlooks a private garden to create a soothing and tranquil, Zen-like atmosphere.

Minimalist Style

In keeping with the contemporary, minimalist style of a Japanese-inspired shower and soaking area, select faucets and hardware that complement the clean lines and simple furnishings. A designer hand shower with built-in water saving features, optional spray settings and a sleek, ergonomic design makes a perfect addition to a Japanese-style shower. If a point-of-use water heating system is out of your budget, consider a thermostatic shower valve, which provides a constant temperature for the duration of your shower.