The Japanese Bath is a cultural phenomenon in Japan that has been practiced for thousands of years. The original baths began in Buddhist temples in India, spread to China, and then came to Japan sometime between 710–784. Baths were far more than just for hygiene, they involved ritual spiritual attainment of cleanliness and purification. In Shinto in particular, water is sacred.
Today, baths are still viewed as an essential daily ritual for hygiene, health, and relaxation. Baths are also significant to Japanese life, serving as a respite from the rigors of Japanese work life. Prior to the 20th century, there were not many private domestic baths, so bathing was done communally. Most people now have private soaking baths in their home, but bathing is still viewed as an important social activity. Communal baths bring all people together and transcend social, economic, and generational barriers. Public bathhouses are community meeting places for both personal and business relationships. Bathing together helps create bonding and connection, according to the cultural ideals.
There are three primary types of Japanese baths: onsen, sento, and ofuro. Onsen are baths sourced by natural mineral hot springs. Ofuro refer to personal, domestic soaking tubs. Sento baths are non-hot spring public baths, many of which are now referred to as super-sento – or baths than include up to two dozen types of baths, including, jacuzzi, steam, and saunas, much like resort and day spas around the world. It is this spa-type sento, that Chozu is modeled after.
Many onsen and sento also offer massage and body treatments, as well as food and drink, in addition to the baths. In keeping with this Japanese tradition, Chozu also offers massage and spa services, as well as a Tea, Sake, and Food Lounge.
For hygiene reasons, it is expected that you are completely clean before entering the baths. The baths are meant for therapeutic soaking, not for cleansing. The primary etiquette rule for both Onsen and Sento is to first soap and scrub your body, rinse thoroughly, wash your hair, and tie your hair up prior to entering the pools. At Chozu, we provide your with our custom blend of bath salts to use to scrub your body in the showers before you go to the baths.
The Health Benefits of Baths
One of the most important reasons why Japanese baths persist today is for the extraordinary health benefits. The Japanese government actually regulates many types of public baths for their health benefits. There is a branch of medical therapy in Japan called “balneotherapy.” Some Japanese health insurance covers bath visits with a prescription.
Soaking in hot water and the way in which it raises and maintains a high body temperature, has many benefits for our bodies and our overall well-being. These benefits include improved blood circulation, muscle relaxation, detoxification, improved lymph circulation, increased metabolism and immune function, and a calmed nervous system.
The heat from the baths can cause sweating. Sweating releases toxins through our skin. The increase in circulation that the baths create dilates blood vessels and encourages flow of blood and lymph fluids. The increased lymph system circulation helps to clear the body of toxins, bacteria, and viruses. Because the lymph system stimulates immune response, the improved lymph flow and blood circulation helps to strengthen immune function and improve health. Besides detoxification through the skin and lymph, the higher body temperatures also boost metabolism and heart rate.
Hot Water Bathing is deeply relaxing for muscles. It can reduce tension, cramps, aches, and improve muscle elasticity. Soaking after a workout, not only eases tired muscles, but also prevents lactic acid buildup that causes sore muscles.
Soaking in hot water can greatly serve to balance our parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems, thus calming the nervous system. reducing stress and promoting rest. It helps to reduce stress, relax the mind, and promotes rest and rejuvenation.
Tips For Getting the Most Out of Your Bath Experience
Drink plenty of water before, throughout, and after to prevent dehydration.
Follow the bathing with gentle stretching to help improve muscle position and flexibility and balance the pressure on the skeletal system.
For ultimate rejuvenation, take at least 30 minutes after your time in the bath gardens to do nothing but rest.
Visit the Chozu Lounge to sit back with some tea or other nourishing food or drink.