Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Japanese Bathing Etiquette

Part of the experience of staying in a traditional Japanese house or ryokan is taking advantage of the common baths.  Large cedar and granite baths filled to the brim with water that is piping hot.  It’s considered a luxurious way to relax.

But beware... there is strict bathing etiquette.  From the sign posted in the bath and instructions in my room, it seems apparent Westerners must make faux pas quite often.

I studied the rules, put on my cotton kimono, grabbed my towel and headed to the bathing room.  In the entry room, it’s time to strip down and leave your belongings in a basket.  No underwear allowed – this is not a time for modesty, the signs make clear!

Now the key to understanding the bath is that it’s for relaxing, not washing.  Also key is that it’s shared, so you need to be clean before stepping in.  That means you must shower before bathing.

As for the shower, standing would be an embarrassing mistake.  You must sit on the little stool provided.  You have a shower nozzle and bucket to work with.  It’s a little awkward, but I accomplished my goal.

Feeling good about my progress – I step in the bath.  Wow, it’s hot!  But, soon I’m relaxing.  Thinking I’ve got this whole Japanese bathing etiquette mastered, I notice my first error.  Towels are strictly prohibited from being placed in the bath.  I didn’t mean to do it…I just placed my towel on the edge of the tub.  But, soon it was in the water and soaking wet.  Luckily, there were extra towels for those slow learners like myself.

Ten minutes later I’m ready for shower number two, a new towel, and then it’s time to get into bed.  It was a pleasant experience, but then again I had the bath all to myself.  So, if there were any other missteps along the way, no one was there to witness them.

The sign inside the bath advising you to enjoy the bath with manners.

Your clothes are left here -- underwear too!

The shower set up.  Those stools are short!

The beautiful bath.  The picture doesn't do it justice.  It was very large and filled to the brim like an infinity pool.

The exterior of our lovely ryokan.


  1. Great post! Thank you for sharing.

  2. Wow, I didn't konw there are so many Bathing Etiquette in Japan. Thanks for sharing it with me.