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Ofuro, Japan's sustainable bath

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Paula Sánchez
Content Manager at iAgua and Smart Water Magazine Sometimes I write.

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  • Ofuro, Japan's sustainable bath

Japan is a country with many ancient traditions. For Westeners, some of the most striking are those to do with bathing rituals. Furo, also known as Ofuro, a traditional Japanese bath, is one of them.

For the Japanese, who have a particular predilection for water, bath time is not a moment of hygiene, but a moment of relaxation. In other countries, however, our bathing culture is completely different.  

Japanese communal bath house

Ofuro is an important part of the lifestyle of the Japanese, who after a long day's work come home looking forward to relaxing and warming themselves in these wooden bathtubs. This ritual, which does not seek to cleanse the body but the mind, was already put in practise by the Egyptians, who 5,000 years ago had discovered the benefits of this type of bathing.

In Japan, baths are normally taken in three different places: the ofuro, (your own house), the Sento, (Japanese communal baths) and the Onsen (Japanese hot springs).

Ofuro is the most common form of bathing in Japan, perhaps because it is the easiest way, as more and more citizens can afford to have a bathtub at home.

In Japan, families bathe in order. The eldest and male members go first. In a typical family, the order would be similar to this: first the grandfather, then the father, the son, the grandmother, the mother and lastly, the daughter.

Japanese communal bath house

In their own houses, the Japanese have well-differentiated bathing areas. This could be compared to the French, who usually have their toilet in a separate room from the rest of the bathroom, the Japanese also have the toilet separate from the bathing area, with the difference that the whole floor is waterproof.

In the bathing area there is a shower hose or a bucket of water with which to rinse. On the bathroom floor, next to the bathtub, there is usually a stool where you can sit down to lather your hair and body. And then, only when they have rinsed their whole body, can they enter the bathtub.

It is essential to wash thoroughly before entering the bath, as this is where all members of the family bathe and must be kept clean. Bathtubs in Japanese homes have a lid to keep the water warm until the next member bathes.

Modern ofuro bathtubs have temperature control. Their design is rectangular and they measure about 60-70 centimeters, deeper than western bathtubs. These bathtubs are completely filled with water until they consider it should be discarded.

Traditional ofuro

Circular economy

The water in the ofuro is usually around 40 degrees. This high temperature helps the body relax and keep warm, and this is why they normally bathe before going to bed, as they believe it helps fall asleep and removes the stress from the body.

Since the new bathtubs have a temperature control, it helps save water, since it can be kept warm. Depending on its use, water can be reused for days. In large families, where parents and children take daily baths, the baths are usually refilled once or twice a week, but this depends entirely on the families and some households maintain the same water longer.

The Japanese are extremely conscious of wasting water and use an innovative system to recycle the water they discard from their bathtubs. After the water is no longer useful for their baths, they connect their tubs to a washing machine and use this water to wash their clothes.

In this way, water saving and relaxation are more connected than ever.

It may not be a deep-rooted custom in Europe yet, but there are Japanese bathtubs for two people worth approximately 2,500 euros.

If not, we can always connect our shower with our washing machines and recycle our water.

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