Japan is a volcanic archipelago, dotted with countless thermal springs and two-thirds of its surface covered with forests. The geographical position and the nature of the terrain mean that the climate and the natural environment have a fundamental influence on the lives of the inhabitants. The deep-rooted cult of traditional values gives the Japanese an undeniable sense of well-being, making Japan one of the countries with the highest life expectancy.


The traditional bathing habits of the Japanese correspond to practical aspects, but are also shaped by spiritual and moral principles which, similar to the tea ceremony, find their origin in Zen Buddhism. The main purpose is, of course, body hygiene, which the average Japanese does extremely care about. Thermal water or heated water, relatively hot around 40°C, is used. Due to climatic conditions, this ritual is performed very frequently. In the sultry summer, the bath temporarily overheats the body, giving it a soothing effect through the continuous exhalation of the skin. In the winter time, bathing is a useful way to warm the body deeply.


Both at home and in public baths which are equipped with larger tubs, bathing is traditionally done in the same water. Before entering the bathtub, each person washes his or her entire body, sitting on a stool and using the warm water from a bucket, bowl or shower. In this way, the bath water into which one climbs is not soiled, and one also gets used to the temperature of the warm water. Normally, Japanese bathe naked and only cover themselves with a small towel.


Japanese bathing culture is based on the soothing effect and comfort experienced by immersing the body in very warm water. This effect is considered ideal when the cosy warmth of the water is accompanied by circumstances that provide a full sensory experience: the touch of natural materials, the smell of fragrant essences, the beauty of Japanese woods with their light, rich grains, the steam, fragrance and colour of the water, a panoramic view or the view of a stylish garden - and all this in harmonious tranquillity, interrupted at most by the splashing of a small waterfall or refreshed by a gentle breeze.

Analogous to the tea ceremony, the ritual of Japanese bathing is also based on the four principles wa-kei-sei-jaku: harmony - reverence - purity - silence.


There are different variations of the Japanese bathing ritual, depending on the occasion and local conditions: ofuro stands for bathing in general (in one's own home), sentō refers to the public bath, onsen are thermal baths and rotenburo is the open-air bath, which is often characterised by idyllic landscapes in the midst of nature.


Bathing, especially when done "Japanese style" - by means of thorough body cleansing followed by immersion for relaxation - subjects the body to five basic activities of which we are often insufficiently aware, but which are described in detail in Japanese literature.

The heat promotes perspiration and the corresponding opening and cleansing of the pores, has a regulating effect on body temperature, controls both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems and normalises heart activity, activating or calming depending on the water temperature.

The water pressure is not normally perceived when immersed in the tub. Nevertheless, with increased awareness, especially if the immersion is done sitting up to shoulder height, one can notice that a certain compression acts on the chest, reducing the chest circumference by a few centimetres. This activates the respiratory, lymphatic systems and blood circulation.

According to Archimedes' principle, the buoyancy force reduces the body weight in the water by up to one tenth. This creates a feeling of lightness and freedom. The water also has a certain viscosity that resists muscle movements.

Chemical substances such as those contained in thermal springs cause special reactions in the body. Thermal springs are called such because of the oligo-mineral substances they contain, which are not found in ordinary spring or tap water. There are countless treatises in Japan on the comprehensive topic of thermal springs and their effects on the human body in terms of the type of ingredients, their concentrations, the interrelationships and experiences with a variety of very special onsen with special water qualities.

It is the totality of the physical and chemical effects as well as the way of bathing that determines the well-being of the body. Body temperature, blood pressure, hormone production are regulated by the daily rhythms and in today's stressful and hectic life they often get out of balance losing their regular flow. Bathing in warm water with its static pressure and buoyancy as well as additional substances stimulate the body in different ways so that the disturbed rhythm is restored to its original balance. One does not go to Japanese spas "to cure an illness" but rather to "stimulate one's own power of self-healing".

The change of place, e.g. on the occasion of a holiday or an ‘escape' into nature, produces a calming effect and sobriety (positive psychological effects) even before physical and healing effects on our body. An environment such as that found in the mountains or by the sea evokes special arousals in the body: changes in temperature, air pressure and therefore oxygen content stimulate the pulse, respiration and metabolism.


A typical Japanese form for short regeneration holidays are stays in so-called ryokan or onsen-ryokan, characteristic spa inns in Japanese style, furnished with tatami, shoji and futon beds, where the high bathing culture is combined with the culinary delights of healthy, Japanese cuisine - a polite place to relax mind and body.
The culture of washoku, as Japanese cuisine is called, is expressed to the highest degree in these establishments, both in terms of the food used and its preparation, and in terms of the aesthetic presentation of the food, including the original tableware made of porcelain, lacqerware, wood, etc. Washoku was declared an Intangible World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2013.

... to bring authentic, unadulterated delicacies from my homeland to sensitive people, so that they can get to know traditional Japan better and enjoy it ... >>> Tomoko Mori