What is a Japanese bathtub? A ‘new’ wellness bath trend

Unless you’re a bath connoisseur, you’ve probably never heard of the Japanese bathtub, but this luxurious take on a regular bathtub is gaining popularity among designers and homeowners alike.

While these interesting bathtubs are definitely trending right now, the modern bathroom idea is actually inspired by a much older tradition. The concept of the Japanese bathtub, also known as Ofuro, comes from ancient Japan and, in short, it is a deep bathtub specially designed for a long relaxing bath.

Unlike a regular bath, you would traditionally shower and wash your body before bathing, and save this bath to soak instead. The bath itself is particularly steep and is usually shorter in length, forcing the bather to sit up straight, completely submerged in water up to the chest.

As more of us look to our homes for comfort and relaxation to promote or well-being, the Japanese bathtub has soared in popularity. “People love the beautiful modern aesthetic of a handmade, warm, natural wood bathtub,” explains Ken Larson, general manager at Zen Bathworks, which makes Japanese bathtubs.

“The simple beauty and traditional design combined with an unusual depth offer the bather a bit of luxury that is easy to use,” he adds. ‘Traditional, organic wooden Ofuros offer a quiet, steaming refuge from the artificial pressures of society.’

Lilith Hudson

Lilith is an expert in following news and trends in the world of interior design. She is committed to sharing articles that help readers stay on top of changing styles and embrace new trends. For this piece, she spoke to Japanese bathtub fitters to learn more about this wellness bathroom trend and how to embrace it in your home.

What are Japanese bathtubs made of?

Traditionally, Japanese bathtubs were built from cypress wood, also known as Hinkoki, a material used to build temples in Japan. However, now that they have been reclaimed as a bathroom trend, they are crafted in more contemporary materials such as stone, steel and copper.

The scent of cypress wood is the main reason the material is used for these relaxing baths. “The lemon/ginger scent of the Hinoki wood is aromatherapy at its best,” explains Kent of . from Zen Bathing (opens in new tab). In addition, most Ofuros are handcrafted from wood, offering customers two things that typical mass-produced bathtubs don’t have; one, customization and two, the beautiful aesthetic that only wood can offer.’

A Japanese bathtub with black copperware

Credit: Zen Bathworks

Wooden variants – also often made from red cedar or teak – bring a nice soft, neutral aesthetic to your bathroom with a spa-like feel. Modern adaptations of this old bath idea can also be adapted to individual needs. Kent explains: ‘We built a 2-in-1 bath for one customer and they planned to use one compartment for a warm bath and the other for a cold dip.’

How do you apply a Japanese bathtub in your bathroom?

If you’re interested in embracing the Japanese bath trend in your bathroom, you should consider whether you have the space available, as these large, deep tubs take up a lot of space. Once fitted, they add a real sense of luxury to a bathroom and pair beautifully with stone effect bathroom wall tiles and black copper for a contemporary look.

If you’re lucky enough to have the space available, you should consider where the tub would work best in your bathroom. “Freestanding installations are the easiest way to install a Japanese bathtub, as our Ofuros have a fine finish on all sides,” explains Kent. “You can also place the bath in a corner, alcove or alcove.”

a small bathroom with a small round bath

Credit: Seth & Kendra Smooth. Design: Lisa de Luc

Those sold on this bathroom wellness idea will be happy to learn that most fitters offer a choice of several drain configurations, including indirect, standard overflow, or external drain and overflow. “We recommend indirect on a wet floor for the easiest installation,” adds Kent. “For added aesthetic appeal, consider a river rock base framing that hides trench drains in the floor.”

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