Ofuro is the Japanese word for Bath. But the Japanese concept of a bath is much different than what Americans usually think of it. Where we think of a bath having the purpose of personal hygiene and cleaning one’s self, the tradition of using Ofuro soaking tubs in Japan is almost spiritual, providing a place to relax, and restore physical & mental health. Often placed outdoors, in a garden or peaceful setting, they promote well-being and harmony with nature.
You too can have a soothing, relaxing, meditative time in your own Ofuro…this one is from Northern Lights
While we mainly focus on providing Do-It-Yourselfers with the knowledge and resources to tackle their own custom tile shower & bathroom renovations – as the name of the website implies! – we also love providing info about other aspects or fixtures of a bathroom that can dramatically impact the look, feel, and usefulness of your bathroom.
The Ofuro, or Japanese soaking tub, is one of those fixtures that will give a feeling of luxury and visual appeal, while also providing comfort and relaxation. So, read on to find out all the details of what makes a Japanese soaking tub, and where you can get one for yourself!
An example of a traditional Ofuro made by Northern Lights Cedar Tubs & Saunas.
The Japanese Ofuro Tradition
The Ofuro experience in the Japanese culture has long held significance as a way to cleanse the body, mind, and soul. You would bathe first, getting clean, before enjoying the Ofuro (the water in the Ofuro is typically reused by several family members). A traditionally small but deep tub, you would step up and into the tub and then submerge your entire body up to your neck. There is a seat built into most of these Japanese soaking tubs for you to sit in a comfortable position to relax in the water.
The Japanese like their water very hot, over 107 degree usually, even hotter than we Americans like our hot tubs.
Its early usage in Japan stemmed from the more ancient Japanese tradition of bathing and relaxing in onsen, volcanic hot springs, that villages and settlements were built near. This led to the construction of sentos, or communal bathhouses, that were fed by the hot springs. And, eventually the ofuro soaking tubs became common as a way for people to enjoy these baths from the comfort of their home.
What Makes a Tub a “Japanese Soaking Tub”?
As I’ve mentioned already, the Japanese style of soaking tub is distinctly different than what we’re used to in America. There are essentially three factors that distinguish the ofuro:
- What it’s made of – In Japan, they’re made of a fragrant cypress wood called Hinoki, and in the USA you’ll often see the natural ones made from either Western Red Cedar or Teak, which all are rot-resistant, good for the outdoors, and retain heat very well.
- Its shape & dimensions – A Japanese ofuro is deep, usually 25 to 30 inches, but small in footprint – round or squarish – made for sitting upright in, so the water can come up to your neck. It has straight side walls. Whereas, the standard American soaking tub that is elongated with sloping sides made for lounging against.
- How its used – We typically use the tub as a means of cleaning and personal hygiene. In Japan, they first clean and rinse themselves, either by sitting on a stool or showering, and then get into the soaking tub. Because they’re already clean when using the tub, the water is conserved and used by multiple people in the family. Your time in the Japanese soaking tub is to be enjoyed, to wind down after a long day, and take your time, not rush.
Not an Ofuro here, rather an example of an American style soaking tub; longer with sloped sides
Design & Construction Choices
When it comes to choosing the perfect soaking tub for your situation, you have a number of factors to choose from…
Traditional or Modern:
The traditional look would be a natural, rot-resistant wood, like cedar or teak. If you like modern, many are available today made of porcelain, copper, stainless steel, tile, fiberglass, acrylic, or concrete.
A modern copper ofuro
Indoor or Outdoor:
Where you place it is totally up to you…if it’s a nice private patio or garden space you have in mind, or in your dream bathroom remodel, they have soaking tubs made for each setting.
How it’s Heated:
Most modern indoor tubs have electric heat to maintain the temperature of the water, and outdoor models have either electric heat or are heated by a wood-fired burner.
Here is an example of a wood-fire heated outdoor ofuro made by Northern Lights Cedar Tubs & Saunas
While your traditional ofuro is small in footprint, just big enough for 1 or 2 people to sit in (but deep), many soaking tubs are 60 or 72 inches long, with the larger ones holding up to 250 gallons of water. If you have a small bathroom, the traditional size of ofuro could be a perfect fit, giving you a deep bath to relax in without taking up much floor space.
Q: What can I expect to spend on a Japanese soaking tub? – Answer: If you want an ofuro of your own, I would assume you also like something of high quality, made to last and that looks nice enough to make a statement. You can generally expect the lower end of quality tubs to start around $1,000, and range up to $5,000…Most in that range are great tubs and will perfectly suit the average person. Now, if you have a larger budget and have a taste for things a bit more custom, you could get something made just for you for $15,000-$20,000, such as from Diamond Spas.
Where Can You Buy An Ofuro?
There are a number of places that sell Japanese style soaking tubs, and thanks to so much being available to purchase online and have shipped these days, we can find just about any make, style, and quality of tub we want from the comfort of home at our computer. Here are a few places to start your search:
Northern Lights Hot Tubs & Saunas
Northern Lights Hot Tubs & Saunas offers Japanese soaking tubs made of Western Red Cedar, which is a close cousin to Japanese Hinoki wood. They can be installed either indoor or outdoors. You can get them with a wood-fired heater or an electric heater, which comes with a quiet circulating pump, LCD controller, and filter.
Do you have the perfect spot to place a soaking tub on your back patio or deck to enjoy some peace & quiet in the great outdoors? Northern Lights
Will you be enjoying your bath alone or with a special someone? You can get an Ofuro sized for 1 or for 2!
On Amazon, you can browse through a wide selection of modern & traditional, high quality or inexpensive/portable, and find something you may like, such as this nice natural cedar one…
Alfi Cedar Soaking Tub
This model from Alfi is made of solid cedar wood, comes with a complimentary wooden hanging basket to store bathing accessories nearby, and the walls of the soaking tub are reinforced with three electroplated iron wraps (applied with black and gold paint to give a rustic look).
Soluna Copper Japanese Soaking Tub
This truly beautiful hammered copper Ofuro tub will look outstanding in your bathroom. Available in 4 colors – Rio Grande, Matte Copper, Cafe Natural, and Dark Smoke – this Soluna free-standing offers a rich look, perfect for a minimalist and contemporary style. It is 45″ wide on the outside and 36″ tall, while the inside dimensions are 39″ wide and 31″ high, perfect depth for an ofuro style tub to get your body fully immersed up to your neck! It will hold approximately 158 gallons of water.
American Standard Soaking Tub
American Standard has a free-standing tub with a 23 inch depth, not quite the depth of a traditional Ofuro, but still makes a nice statement as a standalone fixture in your bathroom.
You can find a wide selection of soaking tubs, both Japanese Ofuro style and American style, on Home Depot’s website. They are great about shipping to your home or your local store and I am always pleased with their customer support!
Signature Hardware is an online store with a selection of some very sharp looking modern, Japanese style deep soaking tubs.
If the ultimate in luxury, style, and craftsmanship is what you want, Diamond Spas could be your choice. They offer tubs in five amazing designs, and with the choice of stainless steel or copper, and free-standing or drop-in. While many of their models range from $10k on up to $20k and more, the look and quality they will provide in your bathroom will be unmatched.
In conclusion, whether you go with a natural cedar soaking tub to place in a secluded garden or private patio, the classic look of porcelain, or you choose a more modern, artisan hammered-copper tub for your master bathroom, they all would be a beautiful, and high-rewarding, addition to your home!