Fall has its beauty, but it can be a little too fleeting. Only too soon are we dealing with winter’s bare trees, slush and seemingly never-ending cold weather. If there’s a season where everyone deserves a little extra self-care, it’s winter. Japanese culture has an age-old way to combat the chill, which we could all learn a lot from.
Those looking to ease into season need only to look at the Japanese custom of soaking in an “ofuro,” a deep tub that submerges you in water for the ultimate in relaxation. Also called, appropriately enough, a Japanese soaking tub, the ofuro replicates the experience of soaking in one of the thousands of hot springs that dot the country.
The benefits are many, according to traditional ofuro maker Bartok Designs, who makes the tubs to order in Japan, then ships them all over the world. Their website lists all the ways that a 30-60 soak each day will leave you feeling energized, rejuvenated, and — importantly —relaxed. Above, Mjolk store owners have a beautiful Japanese hinoki soaking tub from Bartok, that complements the woodwork on the top part of the wall of their Toronto bathroom, as seen in Dwell.
Hinoki wood is the preferred material for the ofuro, as the aromatic cyprus is both bacterial and rot-resistant and is thought to have healing properties. But they aren’t the only option. This brushed metal tub in a bathroom by WA Design offers a more modern take on the traditional style.
Even if you don’t quite connect to the restorative spa idea, there are a number of really functional benefits to Japanese soaking tubs. For one, they are ideal for small bathrooms. Also, a Japanese soaking tub uses less water than a conventional tub (as long as it’s a one- or two-person tub). This tub, for example, fits in a teeny tiny alcove in a San Francisco warehouse apartment designed by Edmonds & Lee. It fills via an overhead stream.
And, even while you save space with these tubs, you don’t sacrifice depth, as they allow you to fully submerge your body. This bathroom by Design Indulgence incorporates a Japanese soaking tub in a corner, and fits nicely alongside a traditional shower stall. (But we’d argue that it’s the centerpiece of the design.)
It’s hard to believe that this calming little bathroom is in the middle of New York City — but it is, in Bette Midler’s Manhattan penthouse (spotted on Architectural Digest). The oblong shaped tub —another traditional style — is reinforced with steel bands, almost like a old wooden barrel.
The entrance to the Japanese soaking tub sits at floor level in the bathroom of a modern California home, also seen in Dwell. Though it requires extra engineering, placing the tub low makes it far easier to step in for a soak. (Of course, this idea isn’t for a bathroom used by kids.) The owners say they use it every day.
What do you think? Does the idea of an hour-long soak in one of these tubs sound like a soul saver this season?