Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Japanese Bath

A couple of years ago my son and I traveled Japan together for five weeks. We enjoyed friends hospitality, hiked through outstanding mountain landscapes, frequented Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, but the outstanding experience for me was the Japanese bath. From remote alpine streams, steaming from incoming springs to congenial ancient public baths made of huge squared timbers and even modern onsen with multiple baths, each with its particular mineral water mix, the practice of spiritual rejuvenation through hot water soaking made its way into my heart. When we returned home I was determined to have a Japanese bath.

While the elements of the Japanese bath are relatively straightforward - shower and wash station to thoroughly cleanse the body of the day's dirt and the deep, at least covering the shoulders, tub of hot mineralized water - the availability of the necessaries to make one in North America is limited. Internet research helped and the strong positive memories of the bath's powers kept me looking. Even my wife got caught up in my enthusiasm and, despite some initial qualms about sharing a bath and squatting on a stool to wash, she came around as we began to pick floor tiles and plumbing fittings.

Our home had a sauna, an addition made by the previous Swedish owner. The space was about right for the bath and the laborious conversion began. Once down to the bare walls, we began to draw possible floor plans. Over the course of a year options multiplied and were weeded down to what would fit and what was practical. Then we began to look for contractors - "Sounds interesting but I'm kind 'a busy." "I'm not convinced you know what you want." "What don't your try so and so."

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