Culture

A tradition of beauty – The Japanese Sentō

Feb 14, 2014

Bathing and taking care of one’s body have been part of many eastern cultures. Both for matters of health and well being, Asians and Middle Easterners have mastered the art of taking a moment. Though the rituals vary depending on the culture and the country, the principle remains the same.

In Japan, tradition occupies still today an important part of the daily life. From the tea rituals to the family traditions, this high-tech, modern society has integrate century old, art-like practices to their 21st Century ways. The ritual of bathing is among the most important moment of the day. A room is usually entirely dedicated to bathing and is organized differently from the occidental usual “bathroom”.

The sentō is the Japanese public bath. Similar to the Roman thermea, the sentō allowed all the population to have access to a bathing facility, since the poorer families could not afford the luxury of having a sophisticated bathroom at home.  If their number has decreased nowadays, with the increase of private bathrooms, people can still access the sentō by paying an entrance fee.

The Japanese bathing ritual is composed of four steps. Seated on a stool, the bather begins by emptying a bucket of warm water on top of his head to rinse the day away. Then, he enters the hot bath for a first soak, before stepping out, sitting on the stool once more and repeating the first step. This time, the bather also scrubs and soaps the dirt away before soaking in the hot bath once more, this time staying in the water for a moment’s relaxation. Usually planned towards the end of the working day, the bathing ritual is to be done without hurry.

There is also a strong sense of nature and the “outside” in the Japanese ritual. Often, the bathing room will have a window opening on the garden…or the bath may even be located outside! The key elements to take from the Japanese tradition is to dedicate a moment of your day to your well-being. Enjoy your quiet time.