I was not surprised that also Tom Cruise in the “last Samurai” fell in love with the japanese ritual of bathing, soaking and soothing the body in hot water.
Actually I hear this story all the time, of westerners who visit japan for leisure or business entering reluctantly in an onsen (hot spa) and returning home with the addiction for hot tubs. Soaking is actually so obvious, so natural, it fills up the gap that modern life creates in our lives.
Like the “tea ceremony” or the “ikebana” (flower arrangement) or the sushi, what strikes us westerners is the poetic simplicity and pure beauty of this ritual. Entering in a japanese ofuro (hot tub) is a regenerating experience for both the body and mind and you are never going to forget the first time.
First of all, soaking in 42-43 C (107-109 F) hot water improves blood circulation, skin idratation and the expulsion of toxines from the body. The steam and flowing water originate negative ions with have direct anti-aging effect and are beneficial for relaxing the mind.
There are different types of japanese baths: from the hot springs where you bathe in natural ponds, to modern ceramic or acryl tubs equipped with recirculating systems. A tub relatively unknown in the west is the wooden tub, which combines the advantages of being compact and built with natural material. A wooden bathtub has high thermal insulation and soft touch, moreover it generates a soothing cedar aroma when filled with hot water.
I read often of so called “japanese tubs” built with inappropriate woods, using mitered joints or other faulty details which will cause poor performance and leaks. I decided to write this short stub to stand up about this point: even if they are becoming trendy, do not mess up with japanese tubs. Please. Some people may like sushi, some people may prefer a steak, but do not say that a steak is a kind of sushi, otherwise communication will lose its effectiveness.
I think that there are many types of deep soaking tubs, many types of ofuro-style tubs etc. Anyway we should be more precise when we talk about a “japanese tub”. First of all, japanese tubs are made in Japan. (aka: Chinese tubs are made in China or american tubs are made in the US). If they are made in wood, they should use only coniferous wood (not teak, mahogany etc.). Then these tubs should be handmade, using techniques of wood joinery derived from traditional ship building. Only these details developed during the centuries guarantee performance, durability and genuinuity.