ofuro-ba: bathing room
Notice the drain OUTSIDE of the tub. This is where you should wash thorougly BEFORE you step into the tub full of hot water.
The blue plastic item is the bathtub cover, used to keep the bath water warm after each use.
A low stool to sit on and hand-held bucket for pouring water over yourself as you wash and shampoo, prior to getting into the tub.
The furo or ofuro is the bathtub itself. The suffix -ba means "place," so an ofuroba is "the bathing place" or the bathing room. Don't translate the ofuroba as "bathroom"! In a Japanese house, the toilet is NEVER, EVER in the same room as the bath. In other words, the toilet is never in the ofuroba; it is always in a separate room in the house, often in a completely different part of the house.
Traditional Japanese ofuro were made of wood, but today, they may be made of wood, metal, ceramic, or even plastic. The Japanese ofuro or bathtub itself is used more like a hot tub (a place for relaxing and warming up) rather than a Western bathtub for washing.
What makes Japanese ofuro-ba different from many Western-style bathing areas is that these rooms reflect the Japanese style or customs of bathing. Japanese people customarily take baths in the evening, although in modern times, more and more people are showering in the morning instead of or in addition to bathing at night.
The way to take a bath in Japan is:
First, wash your body thoroughly WHILE STILL OUTSIDE of the bathtub. There will always be a faucet or shower head outside of the bathtub (right next to the tub), as well as a drain in the floor. Often, there will be a low plastic or wooden stool to sit on while you scrub yourself with soap and rinse with water, as well as an oke for filling with water and pouring it over yourself. This is the time to shampoo and condition your hair as well.
Only AFTER you are completely clean is it time to step into the ofuro itself. You might have to remove a bathtub cover keeping the tub water warm before you step in. If you find that the water is no longer warm enough, there may be a heater switch that turns on a gas heater connected to the tub that will immediately begin warming the water. Otherwise, you will have to add more hot water from the hot water tap.
Remember, NEVER use soap, shampoo, or conditioner once you are in the ofuro itself. And when you are finished bathing, DO NOT drain the water. The ofuro water is like a hot tub--it doesn't get drained each time a new person uses it.
tokonoma: decorative alcove | genkan: entryway | shoji and fusuma: paper wall panels | butsudan: Buddhist altar | kamidana: Shinto altar | ofuro-ba: bathing room | oshi-ire: closets
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