Japanese Bathing Etiquette

Japanese bathing etiquette may be somewhat different than what you are used to home. With countless luxurious hot springs and public bathhouses throughout Japan, bathing is one of Japan’s truly great pleasures, and one that we encourage you to take ample opportunity to indulge in while you’re there. Before you do, though, there are a few essential rules of bathing in Japan that you should be familiar with.

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Overview of Japanese Bathing Etiquette

The first, and most important, is that in Japan, bathers must first wash themselves outside the bath before getting into the bath!

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It would be pretty unsanitary if everyone jumped into a common bath and began washing themselves in it. Who would want to sit in a tub of dirty suds and grime? The answer, of course, is nobody. Therefore, in order to keep the common bath clean and enjoyable for everyone, Japanese baths provide little washing stalls in a washing area just outside of the bath.

Unlike Western showers, in which you stand and wash, you actually sit down on a little stool provided at your stall, and then use the shower spray and soaps and shampoos provided to give yourself a good scrub down.


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Japanese Home Bathing Etiquette

If you’re a guest in someone’s home, the same rules of Japanese bathing etiquette apply. Wash outside the bath, and soak (but never wash!) inside the bath. Just remember that whenever you’re sharing bath water, leave it clean for the next user and you’ll be fine.

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Also, don’t drain the water when you’re done. Instead, cover up the bath with the provided bath cover so it stays nice and hot for the next user. And in case you’re wondering, indeed Japanese households normally share the same fill of bath water rather than draining and refilling anew for each person.

If you’re staying in a modern Western-style hotel, your room will most likely have its own shower or tub, in which case the above rules may not apply.

Once you’ve thoroughly washed and rinsed, then you’re free to plunk yourself down into a steaming hot pool of bliss. Trust us. Once you’re immersed in a soothing hot spring or bath, all that pre-washing ritual will have been more than worth it!

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