Seasonal Almanac

Frost descent: Insects tuck themselves away (5 of 5)

May 5th, 2009

Frost descent 15 of 15Bathing as an activity exists in many ancient cultures as a ritual, a social occassion, and a simple pleasure. Public baths were a focal point for many of these cultures: the Roman Thermae, the Ottoman Hamam, the Japanese Onsen and sento. The neccessity of hygiene aside, cultures that sanction a large amount of time spent on relaxation and rejuvenation by immersing in hot water are truely civilised.

Visiting onsens was one of the defining moments of our three month stay in Japan. It opened my eyes to the possibility of community building and social cohesion through the simple activity of communal bathing. Beneath our clothing, we are all different yet the same.

The cool evenings recently have inspired some hot baths. Does a bath use more water than a shore? According to some statistics, have a half to three-quarter filled bath is equivalent to having a 7 minute average shower. If water conservation is important, consider the Japanese bathing method (similar to Navy showers). You wet yourself with a small bucket of hot water, wash yourself with soap, rinse with another small bucket of hot water; when you have ensured you are clean (and free of soap or suds), hop into the hot tub of water. This way, bath water can be shared.

4 Responses to “Frost descent: Insects tuck themselves away (5 of 5)”

  1. 1 Silvia kwon
    May 10th, 2009 at 8:22 am

    there is an onsen right here in collingwood (a five minute walk from my house). mikey and I have been taking advantage of this convenient location and indulging ourselves with a monthly bath. it’s the only way I can do a proper scrub with an exfoliating cloth. The large communal bathtub is also a big attraction. It is set at a very pleasant temperature and you can float and soak right up to your ears. It is truly wonderful for the body and mind.

  2. 2 jolaw
    May 10th, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    You lucky lucky people! A public bath in Collingwood! Is it a Japanese style one? What sort of procedures do you follow in this public bath? How long do you spend there? Please! Tell me more. I’d love a visit.

  3. 3 Silvia kwon
    May 15th, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    It is a traditional Japanese bath house run by a Japanese lady with a legion of very efficient helpers (who seem to be Japanese students). You walk in and your shoes are whipped away and then given a locker with a towel and a very loose fitting jacket and pants (Japanese style). The bath room is about the size of my living area with a half dozen knee high taps (with shower attachemnts) along a wall and a large communal bathtub (4 x 5m approx)at the other end. you sit at the taps on a stool and wash down before you soak in the bath. A wonderful mini waterfall running into the bath helps to create a sanctuary like atmosphere and an instant feeling of relaxation. you lie back and let your mind drift and once your skin has been soaking long enough, you step out and do your exfoliating thing and wash off. You can then step into the sauna for a spell of Nordic stress relief and go back into the bath or shower again. I usually take about an hour to do this. then I change into the loose fitting outfit and head upstairs for a green tea and then a half hour shiatsu massage. The whole thing is just too heavenly! I am happy to go with you on your next visit if you are not bothered about the naked thing..

  4. 4 jolaw
    May 16th, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    That’s it! We are going there, Silvia. Sounds very traditional. A Japanese sento in Collingwood – I wouldn’t have imagined it really. Bother by the naked thing? Not at all – I love it: it’s very liberating (when it’s something to do with a large body of water)!