How to Take a Bath in a Japanese Household: 5 Rules That May Surprise You

  • HOW TO
  • Visiting a Japanese home comes with a lot of rules. If you have ever had a homestay family or visited a friend, you may have already noticed that you need to take a small gift with you and make sure you wear slippers. Etiquette and social rules in Japan aren’t too difficult to pick up and are easy to get used to, but they can initially be a little overwhelming. To avoid confusion or embarrassment, it is best to do some research before you go.

    As well as using chopsticks properly, not blowing your nose, and finishing all your rice at mealtimes, the Japanese have their own rules when it comes to taking a bath. Here are some surprising rules to remember when taking a bath in a Japanese family home!

    1. Understand the wet room

    In most Western countries, bathrooms are all-in-one. There is a toilet, a basin, probably a few cabinets, and a bathtub where only the inside of the bath can get wet.

    In many homes in Japan, this is different. The toilet is in a different room entirely and upon entering the room containing the bath, you’ll notice there is no shower curtain. This is because the whole room can get wet, and you stand on the floor, not in the tub, when you take a shower.

    2. Take a shower before your bath

    The bath isn’t actually meant to wash you, just to relax you and get you ready for bed. Use the shower as you normally would; shampoo your hair and wash your body entirely before going anywhere near the water in the tub.

    3. Don’t get soap or shampoo in the bath

    There will usually be a cover on the bathtub, but if there isn’t, be careful not to get soap suds or shampoo in the bath. Other family members are going to be using the same bath water so they won’t want to see globs of soap when it’s their turn.

    4. Don’t pull the plug when you’re done

    Finally, and very importantly, don’t pull the plug when you’ve finished! Baths in Japan are specially designed to keep bath water hot, and often one tubful is used for the whole family. Leave the bath water alone and cover it up again when you get out.

    5. Leave the bathroom clean and tidy

    Make sure you’re not leaving any razors or anything behind when you leave the bathroom. Some households have a special switch on the outside of the room to quickly dry it. Ask your homestay mother or the head of the household if they’d like you to switch anything on when you leave.

    With these very important rules in mind, taking a bath in Japan can be very relaxing. If you’d prefer to just take a shower, that’s totally fine as well. Knowing the rules and expected behavior beforehand can save you some time and possibly some embarrassment, so be sure to keep these important bath rules in mind.