Japan : The religion of the bath

Considered a necessary break in stressful modern times, the bath has always represented a primordial element of Japanese social life.  Not so much out of a natural respect for cleanliness, one should even be perfectly washed and rinsed before taking a bath, as for climatic considerations.  The high water temperature, often around 40°C or more, makes the heavy, humid, summer climate easier to bear on getting out of the bath, whereas in winter it makes it easier to confront the low temperature and freezing draughts of the Japanese house.  However, the Japanese passion for bathing is also profoundly rooted in ancient religious practice and in Shinto, the mother of Japan’s religions, whose fundamental precept is the evacuation of any ‘soiling’. Today the traditional bath coexists with nautical funfairs where a whole range of extravagant alternatives may be found, from coffee or sake baths to cable-car bathing, where you can take it easy between the sea and the sky !