Japanese Customs: The bath


The bath

A central fact of Japanese life is bathing. Cleanliness is an important value in Japanese culture, but the Japanese bath is more than that: it is relaxation, refreshment, and renewal.

You will find showers in some newer Japanese homes, and in most lodgings that are frequented by Westerners. But you will find a bath in every Japanese home you visit.

If you are a guest in a Japanese home, you will be invited to be the first to bathe in the evening. The rest of the family will follow you, so you want to make sure you do it right.

  • In the bath room, you will find the tub is already filled with hot water. It may have a cover on it to help hold the heat in.

  • Before you get in the tub...
    • Shampoo and wash yourself off, completely rinsing off all soap. Use the hose with spray end you will find there; you will probably want to sit on a small stool that is present.

    • Be absolutely sure you do not get any soap in the tub.

  • If there is a cover on the tub, roll it back or take it off, then get in and soak, let the hot water carry your woes and troubles away.

  • When you are done, use the towel they have provided you for drying off. You may have been given what looks like a towel that is way too small. But you will find it works just fine: wipe your skin off, wring out the towel when it becomes wet; repeat until you are dry.

  • Whatever you do, do not pull the plug in the tub! The water is going to be reused by those folllowing you (which is why you get completely clean and rinsed off before getting into the tub in the first place).


Some Japanese families will be aware of the Western propensity for bathing / showering in the morning. If that is your preference, you need to make it clear at the start of your stay, and they will probably accomodate you. If taking a bath, follow the instructions above. In any case, be careful you do not disrupt the family morning schedule, especially if children need to get to school or a parent needs to get to work.