Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ofuro-do, The Way of the Bath

Learn the Ways of the Bath
Now, anyone who knows anything about Japan knows that baths and bathing are a big deal here. Shinto, the native religion of Japan, is big on the idea of cleanliness and the Japanese have been bathing for longer than Europeans have. Heck, this is the nation that regularly goes on vacation just to take a bath!

Needless to say my sons were very early on introduced to the concept of bathing. Daily bathing actually, much to the shock of my mother (Not to mention all the English baby books who swore up and down that newborns should NOT be bathed every day). However, Japan does things differently, and there is no Japanese who doesn't really love the bath, my sons included.

While many dad blogs talk about the problems of getting the kid into the bath, my problem has always been getting them OUT of the bath. They like it there and neither Makoto nor Hikaru are usually in any particular hurry to leave.

In a way, I don't blame them as Japan also has another concept about bathing, namely skinship, the building of a family bond by bathing together. Traditionally, children bath with their parents until quite a bit older, mid to late elementary school. Some families even continue it until the onset of puberty. The idea of course is one, saving bathwater, you don't need to keep re-heating the tub over and over again for 4 or 5 people. The second however is that family bond, a chance for parents and children to be together in a warm, relaxing environment... totally nakkied.

I admit, it was a LOT more comfortable when both boys were pre-walking, vocal stage. Sitting the the water, cuddling a just washed, somewhat sleepy, baby close to me and relaxing as the hot water removed the stress from the day. Now-a-days the bath tends to be slightly nosier with both Makoto and Hikaru playing in the bath, giggling at fart bubbles (Always amusing to boys), splashing water everywhere, and of course singing and dancing along to the waterproof CD player.

There is more to it of course. The Japanese also have a saying, hadaka no tsukiai, naked friendships, the idea being that the bath is the great leveler in Japan. No matter if you're the big boss or a lowly gaijin, everyone is the same naked. Thankfully I was aware of this notion before I came to Japan for the first time, or else my future-father-in-law's request that he wanted to take a bath with me might have been somewhat of a shock.

Still, this is one part of Japanese culture that I have come to enjoy, even though usually it's Beloved who gives the baths around here (I admit, I'm still stuck on my American ways of a morning shower to wake me up, but I do take baths from time to time). Actually I enjoyed it enough to insist on the largest tub made by Toto in Japan, just so that I can fit my long legs into the damn thing and still have more than enough room to fit in two boys who want to practice spitting water.

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