Aren`t we all like Tom Cruise in the “last Samurai” who fell in love with the beauty and purity of Japanese traditions?
And above all what is more lyrical than the Japanese ritual of bathing, cleaning the body from impurities, soaking and soothing in hot water? Actually I hear this story all the time, of westerners who visit japan for leisure or business entering reluctantly in an onsen (hot spa) and returning home with an addiction for hot tubs. Soaking is actually so obvious, so natural, it fills up the gap that modern life creates in our lives. Like the “tea ceremony” or the “ikebana” (flower arrangement) or the sushi, what strikes us westerners is the poetic simplicity and pure beauty of this ritual. Entering in a Japanese ofuro (wooden hot tub) is a regenerating experience for both the body and mind and I bet you are never going to forget your first time.
First of all, soaking in 42-43 C (107-109 F) hot water improves blood circulation, skin irritation, and eases the expulsion of toxins from the body. The steam and flowing water originate minus-ions which have direct anti-aging effect and are beneficial for relaxing the mind.
There are different types of Japanese baths: from the hot springs where you bathe in natural ponds, to modern ceramic or acrylic tubs equipped with recirculating systems. A tub relatively unknown in the west is the wooden tub, which combines the advantages of being compact and built with natural material. A wooden bathtub has high thermal insulation and soft touch, moreover it generates a soothing cedar aroma when filled with hot water.
I read often of so called “Japanese Tubs” built with inappropriate woods, using mitered joints or other phony details which will cause poor performance and leaks. I think that there are many types of deep soaking tubs, many types of ofuro-style tubs etc. Anyway we should be more precise when we talk about Japanese Tubs. First of all, “Japanese Tubs” are made in Japan. (aka: Chinese tubs are made in China or American tubs are made in the US). If they are made in wood, they should use only coniferous wood (not teak, mahogany etc.). Then these tubs should be handmade, using techniques of wood joinery derived from traditional ship building. Only these details developed during the centuries guarantee performance, durability and genuinity.
I recommend to consult the Bartok design Japan Co. homepage for hundreds of examples and FAQs answered. If you are looking for natural bath accessories visit their hinoki bath accessories page. (direct purchase with PayPal is available).