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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Japanese Public Bathing Explained

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-Good -Good

I remember the first time I heard about Japanese onsen

Alright, what's the onsen?

Okay, onsen means hot spring and people bathing in one look like this.

But there's also sento which is a public bathing facility people bathing in one look like this

Yeah, unless you know where the water is coming from they can look exactly the same

the main difference is that onsen use natural spring water whereas cento use heated tap water

But as always

Osaka sometimes does it different and onsen can be cento, so read the fine print if you really want to know more

But back to my story about how I first heard about onsen.

In my youth when I used to work summers as a painter

My coworker told me about his trip to Japan with his Japanese girlfriend

I was quite surprised to hear they visited a mixed bathing facility. Where yes they were both naked

I know certain Europeans, just love to flaunt their nudity

But as a Canadian, this felt all sorts of wrong, just so you don't get the wrong idea

Nowadays most Japanese public bathing is done with the same gender

But still I thought how could bathing naked with a bunch of other dudes be relaxing?

Why do Japanese love bathing?

Well, let me tell you, have you ever read Shogun?

if you have or if you've seen the TV miniseries you totally know

Oh no, no, I don't

Like hell! A bath will make you foul sick

You see, back in the time period this is taking place.

The 1600s, the English used to think bathing might foul your health with bad air

This theory of bad air was called miasma.

And was prevalent during the times of cholera and dundundun...

Black death

if it were me I believed in the bad air theory too after learning that half my ancestors died during the plague

But having been mostly closed off to the world at this time.

The average Japanese villager would have thought this theory plain crazy

Get out of my way


Sometimes people don't know what's best for them and need to be shown the way despite their kicking and screaming,

But when it's right, It's right

But I've gotten ahead of myself

Bathing in Japan started off so long ago

We're talking about over a thousand years

that historians don't have conclusive reasons for how it got started

A simple explanation can be that since Japan is a volcanic island and is chock full of natural Hot Springs

Was bound to happen that people would want to get naked and jump in

Most history texts I've read posit the start of onsen culture in Japan

was associated with Buddhist temples and religious bathings

Bathing at a temple was first a thing only for priests

But then it opened up to the sick who could benefit from the healing powers of the natural springs

Which were full of acids and minerals.

Then the rich heard about this and thought:

Hey, I'm going to build one just for me because why share?

by the 1600s also known as the beginning of the edo period

Two types of commercial bathing were popular in Japan.

In the East, think Tokyo

which is formally called Edo, hence the name of the era.

there were bath houses with pools of water called Yuya

Which literally means hot water shop.

In the West, think Osaka.

Bathing was more about the steam and called mushi Bulo,

which literally means steam baths

Is this usual?

I mean...

For you to be...

-To be sharing a bath? -emm

In 1869, at the start of the Meiji period.

Laws were put in place to separate bathing by gender

In Japan,

We have no shame of our body

Everything is natural and normal

And because there is so many of us

That is also necessary

Apparently, the American commander Commodore Perry thought that doing so wasn't moral,

and then the Japanese government was like...

oh no! Let's stop this,

then some japanese proprietors says, you want me to build a whole new bath house just to separate the people?

How about I put this small board here to divide it?

That didn't all stop the peeping Tanaka's

Other operators came up with a simple idea of

only allowing in certain genders at spacific times of the day

while others decided to choose sides and specialize in a single gender

Despite the workarounds of bathhouses

Rules weren't always followed.

This must be a huge shock for those who know the propensity of the Japanese to follow rules

Someday you will understand

I'm sure

Someday you'll understand

But to tell the truth, varying laws have attempted to curtail kon-yoku, which is mixed bathing

Since way before the Meiji period and all the way up until after World War two

The latest laws on the books prohibit mixed gender bathing.

Though, there's an exception for young kids


Mixed gender bathing is still allowed today

as places that allowed it before the laws were put into place or grandfathered in

By the time we hit the 1970s we reach peak bathhouses

Population was booming and the economy as well

But as Japan recovered and became an economic superpower

bathtubs became the standard in new homes and bath houses weren't as needed on a regular basis

So now that there's virtually no immediate need to bathe outside the home.

Why is communal bathing still a very popular activity in Japan?

If you've ever seen japanese dramas, animes or TV shows, you've probably witnessed a group bathing scene

Bathing to relax is probably the easiest way to explain why the Japanese love going to public baths

unlike previous iterations of bath houses

Modern ones have become increasingly like spas

Take the super sento as an example

Which roughly translates into super public bathhouse.

Beyond the bathing and steam room facilities,

you can get massages, body scrubs, relaxation rooms and food

Then there's theme park onsen

Oedo onsen, offers up an old-school summer festival like atmosphere

of a bygone Tokyo once Edo

kids can play games

adults drink in the bar

and couples stroll in the outdoor foot baths

and everyone can do it wearing a yukata

And then, there's the more classic ryokan experience, ryokan meaning traditional japanese inn

There you often stay overnight in a tatami room

and some even bring your meals to the room for the ultimate in room service

Beyond the hot springs they can support recreational facilities like ping pong, karaoke and swimming

In Japan clean is beautiful

Really, the ki lii kanji means clean, beautiful, pretty, and pure all at once

This is also why toilets, for the most part are separated from bathing areas

It's also why you take off your shoes before entering a home, and it's also why you'd wash yourself before entering the bath

I will wash my body and go there

-How does it feel, Shin-chan? -Good


Because clean is beautiful

Something I didn't quite believe at first was the healing powers of the hot springs

Japan has had many scientists studying their properties over the years

Depending on which mix of acid or minerals you go with,

it can treat constipation

menstrual pain, diabetes, aching muscles, rheumatism and other funny elements

While I haven't used onsen to specifically cure anything

I can vouch for the fact that some do give you ultra-smooth skin, if only it wasn't a temporary change

Bathing to be the same

in Japanese there's a term called "Hidaka Natsuki I", or: "Naked Association"

It's the feeling that naked in an onsen all are equal

Whether you're a high-flying CEO or pilot or a lowly youtuber.

Without our uniforms, there's no way to tell who's who

This is closely related to a pseudo English Japanese word "skinship"

It describes intimacy between mother and child

Now it has a broader meaning of bonding through physical contact

Whether it be hugging or bathing with children

When my children were born,

the hospital in Canada encouraged me to go skin-to-skin with my babies

so I think this skinship thing is not an entirely foreign concept to the West

Although I think we started practicing it a bit... just a little bit sooner than the Japanese

All things aside

Cost maybe another simple answer for why Japanese love to bathe so much

When you think about going to therapeutic baths in Canada.

If you can find one you can easily spend over $50

There's a public pool. Type of hot springs,

but it's not at all close to the cento or onsen experience you can get in Japan

I don't think my young self would have ever thought this,

but wearing a bathing suit in the hot spring? gross!

Hey, if you've ever tried going naked in a hot spring in Japan

and then prefer the hot springs in Canada with a bathing suit

Please let me know, I'd be surprised but curious to know why

In Japan you can usually get into a public bath for under ten dollars

Although if it's a fancy or themed one, the price could be double or triple

Take the hot spring town we visited. We paid sixteen hundred yen for a pass to see three of the top ones there

Food is also generally not spa priced

But you can get a decent meal for under $10

so really, you can get dinner and a hot spring at your local "Super Cento" for under $20

Perhaps the real reason Japanese love bathing is the natural animal instinct to do so

A special thanks goes out to all those that made this video possible

Thank you so very much.

Do you like getting naked and bathing together where you're from?

Oh, and one last thing

Did you know that there's a Shinto practice, Shintoism is japan's other major religion by the way, called "Misogi"?

It's ritual purification by water, very cold water

Some have put forth that this is the real start of bathing in Japan

The Description of Japanese Public Bathing Explained