Japanese bathroom design evokes images of serenity and tranquility, coupled with an unhurried bathing ritual aimed at soothing, relaxing and restoring body and mind.
Japanese bathrooms are actually wet rooms, consisting of a shower area and the tub.
Note how cleverly the wooden slats drainage for the wet area are designed and placed to blend in with the lines of the tub.
The word ofuro is the Japanese name for the bath tub itself. It is a compact, deep soaking tub, traditionally made from hinoki (Japanese Cypress).
Where space is at a premium, the soaking tub gets a roll-away cover to stand on whilst doing the soaping and rinsing. Family members share the water in the tub, so no soaping or cleaning is done in the tub at all.
The toilet and vanity will be housed separately.
The shape and size of the Japanese soaking tub is ideally suited for a small bathroom. In a bigger master bathroom, you could create an island bath, a design trend that is very popular in contemporary bathrooms.
Creating a Japanese style bathroom does not mean you cannot use modern fixtures or fittings.
Look for tubs, toilets, sinks etc. with clean and simple lines.
Attention to simple details can reinforce your theme - We love how a traditional bamboo water spout can be translated into a faucet using a modern stainless steel interpretation.
(That ornate claw foot Victorian slipper bath is definitely not going to feel welcome in this setting!)
Below is a modern interpretation and practical solution of how to do your bathroom layout within a limited space, to give you a wet area as well as a traditional western bath.
* The image on the left shows the vanity area as you enter the bathroom. Behind the closed glass partition is the wet room.
* The image on the right shows the wet area - where you can use the shower as a pre-bath cleansing facility or as a normal shower. The tub is visible on the left behind the glass enclosure.
* The frosted glass partition not only contains the water from the shower, but has the added advantage of feeling less closed-in by letting in light from the vanity area.
Visit our bathroom layouts page to assist you with the practical aspect of planning your space.
The traditional Japanese bath house refers to a public space. A sentō and onsen refer to a communal bath house in Japan where the onsen has the added distinction that its water comes from a natural hot spring.
These baths are strictly for soaking only. Thorough soaping, cleansing and rinsing is done prior to stepping into the bath.
If you ever get the opportunity, do stay in a Ryokan (traditional Japanese accommodation) where you can experience a taste of the old world with a typical public bath. Utter bliss!
Westerners may at first not know how to go about it but there are usually very clear instructions to guide you. Males bathe separately from females and the space is shrouded in steam, so no reason to feel coy.
Many companies manufacture tubs and sinks in hard-wearing wood such as teak and can custom-make them to fit your Asian bathroom design and space.
Tubs can have a seat (fixed or removable) and can be freestanding or placed on top of, or sunken within a platform. You can have so much fun with the design for the decking surround and steps.
There's something extra special about wooden Japanese tubs. They are unique and relatively unknown to most westerners at this time, but they are gaining in popularity. Being a natural material, their look and feel and natural aroma cannot be replicated with a man-made material.
The tub for your Japanese bathroom design can be constructed from any material and can take any shape: round, oval, rectangular etc. You could use traditional hinoki, your locally available hardwood, acrylics, stone, metal or concrete.
It's the deep soaking experience and simplicity of form that we're looking for here, rather than a strict adherence to a specific material. Yes, in the purest traditional sense it would be constructed from wood, but in modern day Japan they are also using acrylics now.
For many westerners who'd like to have a Japanese styled bathroom, the allure may not necessarily be in the traditional bathing ritual, but rather in the Japanese design elements that epitomize simplicity of line, form and palette.
Visit our Japanese Bathroom page for more interpretations and design ideas.
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