In Japan, bathing is an important, all-embracing ritual. It is used to cleanse and nourish body and soul. People bathe in hot springs (known as “onsen”). Although they are available for public use, people must wash thoroughly before entering them. This is seen as essential to ensure the body is free of impurities. Once this is done, you can relax completely in the water for up to ten minutes, which is approximately 45 degrees Celsius, relieving persistent feelings of tension.
Japanese people also celebrate extensive bathing customs in their own homes, too. Their primary purpose is relaxation. Again, people wash before bathing. You have to be thoroughly clean before you are allowed to step into the bathtub. The whole family uses the same bath water. It sometimes stays in the tub for several days, a sealed lid maintaining a temperature of around 50 degrees Celsius.
As well as relaxation, bathing is also a social act. If possible, all family members bathe together. If there is not enough space in the bathtub, a hierarchy applies: The head of the family is the first to go into the bathtub, then the other men in descending age order. Then it’s the turn for the women.