ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Ii Yu Da Naa~! – The Japanese Public Bath Experience

Updated on December 3, 2009

Beppu Onsen

I assumed that literature on Japanese baths (ofuros, sentos, and onsens) would be more comprehensive than it is. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of accounts on the health benefits of soaking as well as the historical base and cultural significance of why bathing became a social activity in Japan. But if it was me, I would want to read about the experience. How does it feel? What about soaking in a bath the Japanese way makes those who are apprehensive the first time, or maybe even the second time, find themselves eventually addicted? I'm curious about the tangible aspects of the experience, sights, smells, sounds, and feelings. Below is my account of going to a Japanese public bath, as I have done since my youth.

As soon as you walk into the changing room, the ambience is different. The air is warm, and slightly more humid than it was outside. The beautiful part about this space is that everyone is stripped of their facades. Even though most modern public baths have a dressing area full of lights and mirrors (at least for the women) where appearance is perfected before entering the outside world, in that space, where the air is slightly denser, each individual is raw.

I think most fear public nudity above all else. Our modern societies teach us to build walls around ourselves but in this space we are forced to tear them down, and a part of me finds that refreshing. But more importantly, nobody is looking at you, and no one is bothered by what you are doing. While the bath is a public space, on the other hand it’s a quiet and personal place. Here you attend to your overworked and underappreciated body, and spend time easing your tired mind.

When you enter the bath area with a small towel that you can use to “be modest” (if you choose), the steam immediately envelopes your body and you feel warm, deep inside. Everyone is so engrossed in themselves that it's surprisingly quiet for a public place; and the soothing sound of flowing trickling water cloaks the entire room.

Once you have soaped and cleaned yourself with the showers or faucets along the walls, it's time for the main event. The Japanese differentiate between cleaning and soaking ones body. Soaking isn't for removing dirt, it's for the body to slowdown, then reboot. The water in the tub might be too warm to just climb into; the slow approach is best, one foot at a time. The rush of water engulfing your skin and you sink deeper into the tub is thrilling. You can feel your heart rate increase and any rigidity in your body eased. Once completely submerged, it's like being wrapped up in a warm blanket.

Clusters of people may be chit chatting while enjoying their soak, teeter tottering between social and solitary, comfortable in their own skin. It's a social place unlike any other you will experience. The Japanese frequently use this phrase “Ii yu da na~,” roughly translated, “Damn, this water is great!” as they feel the pent up tension from their hectic lives dissolve into the steaming water.

When the soak is completed, whenever you decide that to be: 10 minutes, 30 minutes, or when your skin has become lobster-red and prune-like; rise from the tub of steaming water relaxed and rejuvenated. While you redress and prepare yourself to be presentable for the outside world, it may feel like you're walking on air. Emerge from the changing room to thinner lighter air, and breathe a sigh of relief that you just spent time on yourself.

So my advice is, stop being concerned about technicalities and experience one of the simplest and purest pleasures in this world. And you may just end up thinking, “Ii yu da na~!”


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Kori Lee F.P. profile image

      Kori Lee F.P. 

      9 years ago from Northern Arizona

      Love your hub. I have been to a bath house in Japan. I went in 1989 to Fujiyoshida area. Loved the experience and loved Japan.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)