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Making bathing a Zen experience

The Japanese ritual of soaking in an “ofuro,” a deep tub full of steaming water, is catching on in the U.S.
KIM COOK Published: June 18, 2012

Some of us are shower people, and some are bathers.

But there's a way to be both, as the Japanese discovered centuries ago when they developed the ofuro, or soaking tub.

Traditionally, the Japanese get clean with a shower or hand bath and then step into an “ofuro,” a deep tub full of clean hot water. These tubs are often large enough that several family members can have a communal soak. It's considered a relaxing and important ritual.

The idea has caught on here, and there are now several manufacturers making ofuro tubs suitable for one bather or a couple. Usually about 27 inches deep, the tubs typically have built-in seats, and often a grab bar. They're available in acrylic, composite, wood, even stainless steel and copper.

Here are the steamy details on some options, and what you should consider before adding one to your home:

Wooden tubs

Bill Finlay owns Sea Otter Woodworks in Haynes, Alaska. While he'd been making outdoor hot tubs for a few years, he made his first ofuro at the request of a business associate, and that sparked an interest in perfecting the craft.

“I made a couple of fact-finding trips to Japan, then developed my own techniques,” he says.

Finlay makes the Hinoki Ofuro in a couple of sizes, suitable for one or two people. The material is an aromatic cypress native to Japan; the resin is bacteria- and rot-resistant and withstands humidity. The citrusy fragrance is a common aromatherapy component.

Acrylic and

composite tubs

Wykoff, N.J.-based bath designer Holly Rickert recently won an industry award for a design that incorporated an English soaking tub into a Japanese-style bath.

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