A Guide to Taking a (Public) Bath in Japan!

A Guide to Taking a (Public) Bath in Japan!

Now you might think that writing a guide about simply taking a bath is a bit well…strange. But when I am in Japan, one of the things that I most look forward to at the end of a busy day, is returning to my hotel and taking a long soak in the bath and I mean the public bath, not the small bath that you might have in your hotel room, and trust me, it is helpful to know what you’re doing!

Taking a bath at your hotel in Japan
A public bath that you might expect to see in a hotel in Japan!

The bath, which vary in size from about 2m x 3m up to 6m x 6m, would be spotlessly clean, full to the brim and pre heated to a quite hot but not unbearable temperature. There may also be a cold bath and an extra hot bath and whilst men and women have different baths, be prepared to take one with complete strangers, they are communal!!!

But these are not ordinary baths in the western sense of the word and if you are fortunate enough to visit Japan, I urge you to take one and I hope that the following tips will help you to enjoy this wonderful Japanese ritual.

(If you have a tattoo just check that you are permitted to use the bath as some will not allow you!)

  1. You can visit the bathing area wearing your gym gear (shorts and tee shirt) the pyjamas which will be provided by your hotel or a Nemaki, which is a pure cotton kimono robe, for men or women.
  2. Remove your shoes before entering the changing room and secure them in a locker.
  3. Get completely undressed, yes naked, put your clothes in a locker and take a small white towel (provided).
  4. Enter the communal bathing area, sit on a small stool in one of the bays.
  5. Use the shampoo, body wash and shaving cream (provided).
  6. You can use the small white towel to wash with if you wish.
  7. Rinse off using either the handheld shower hose or fill a plastic bowl (provided) from the tap.
  8. This is really the important bit, you must take extra care to rinse all of the soap from your hair, your body and the small white towel.
  9. Enter the bath and relax… but probably for not more than about 15 minutes!
  10. When you have finished you can use one of the large white towels that will be provided and get changed.

Types of Japanese Baths;

  • Ofuro Bath at home or in a hotel.
  • Sento Public ‘to pay for’ baths.
  • Rotenburo Open air ‘to pay for’ outside baths.
  • Onsen Natural hot spring baths.

Most hotels in Japan have baths, but if you can, try and stay at least one night in a Ryokan, which are more traditional Japanese hotels where the staff wear kimono, they have tatami mat bedrooms and usually serve amazing Japanese food! Many Ryokan have onsen or a natural hot spring bath which are stunning, sometimes outdoors and many Japanese people will visit purely to escape their busy life and enjoy the bathing experience!

Some Japanese people take a bath with the small white towel on their head, so whilst I completely understand that the idea of sitting naked in a large very hot bath with a few strangers with small towels on their heads might sound a bit bonkers, it is so wonderfully relaxing, you simply must try it!

Taking a bath in Japan

A Japanese lady enjoying the onsen bathing experience!

Here at The Japanese Shop, we have an extensive range of traditional Japanese gifts, including authentic Japanese Nemaki, which are soft pure cotton kimono robes with cool geometric blue and white patterns for men and women! Are you following us on Facebook and Instagram? We share our new-in or recommended products, Japanese culture, tips on how to use our products etc. Come and join us!

Back to blog