Ofuro - the Japanese Bath
Much has been said about the Japanese toilet: visitors from overseas are often taken aback by those miraculous toilets fitted with hi-tech of toilet seats that can do everything from heat or wash your bottom to providing a reliable pregnancy check, and those at the other end of the extreme that are little more than hole-in-the-ground affairs.
Despite this strange fixation with the toilet, very few visitors seem to encounter the equally noteworthy common household bath in Japan. When bathing is discussed, comment is usually reserved for the traditional onsen (hot-spring spas) or sentou (public bathhouse) found throughout the country. Yet, to me, the typical bath found in most Japanese homes seems no less worthy of attention than its larger cousins.
Perhaps the most striking characteristic of the Japanese bathroom is that it is waterproofed and equipped with a drainage system in such a way that the entire room is used when showering or bathing without concern for splashing water or overflowing tubs.
Another common feature of many modern bathrooms is the 24-hour ventilation system, which ensures that moisture is removed before damp and mold can start posing a problem.
Even the bathtub itself is worthy of note. The deceptively short length of the average Japanese bath is balanced by its depth and width. In addition to the dimensions of the bath, modern technology has brought all manner of conveniences to bath time. I particularly like the way that I can easily program my bath to fill itself at a given time, that it will play a little tune to inform me that it is almost full, that it will stop filling automatically once the level reaches a preset amount, and that it will maintain the bath water at a preset temperature for a preset time.
This may all seem very unnecessary, but given the way that Japanese family life almost seems to revolve around the bath, the limited time spent at home by members of the family, not to mention certain Japanese idiosyncrasies regarding bathing customs, the mere fact that the bathroom is fitted with such intelligent systems means that the optimal use is made of the limited time and space available. More importantly, I feel that it makes bath time a truly enjoyable experience: the Japanese bathroom is without a doubt one of the things that I miss the most when absent from the country.