The Physics
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An encyclopedia of scientific essays

Temperature of a Japanese Bath (お風呂)

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Phinney, E.S. Physics 101: Problem Set 6 [pdf]. 4 May, 2005. California Institute of Technology "The water in a Japanese bath is about ΔT ≈ 6 degrees centigrade hotter than body temperature." 43° C
Encyclopedia Britannica. Furo. 22 May, 2005. "furo: Japanese-style bath typically using water heated to 110° F (43.3° C) or hotter." 43.3° C
Shelton, Karen. Baths: Healing Rituals For The Soul. October 2001. "The most relaxing and soothing baths are warm baths in temperature from 90 to 98 degrees Fahrenheit. A comfortable zone is 98 to 100 degrees for most people. The Japanese believe in keeping their water over 104 degrees." 40° C
Grilli, Peter. Furo, the Japanese Bath.Tokyo, New York. Kodansha International. 1985 "The temperature about 40 ~ 43 degrees centigrade is a little hot for foreigners, and maybe even for Japanese." 40° ~ 43° C
The Japan Forum Newsleter. A Day In The Life. June 1996 "The water temperature should be between 38° C and 42° C" 38° ~ 42° C

The term "furo" refers to the Japanese bath. What differentiates this type of bath from the typical American bath is its structure, which is composed of an extra-deep tub in which the bather sits submurged up to the neck, and the relatively hot temperature of the water. In addition, rather than washing in the actual bath this is done outside of it, so that the water remains both clean and deeply refreshing.

The typical Japanese bather spends about half of an hour in the bath every night, and children will even bathe with their parents until they near the end of elementary school. Hence, this serves as an environment for an important type of family communication that is otherwise not present in the customs of other cultures.

It has been theorized that the primary inspiration for this unusual style of bathing is due to the effects of the numerous volcanoes in Japan, which caused hot water bubbles to come up from underground. Together, these hot springs and the existence of many fast flowing rivers with clean water paved the way for large, high-temperature public baths. The purpose of these baths soon became to maintain good health by stimulating circulation in the body through the intense heat of the water, which reaches between 38 and 43 degrees Celsius (or approximately 100 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit). Additionally, these baths also helped to ease the effects of Japan's climate. In the hot and humid summers these baths helped to rid the bather of sweat, and in the cold winters they helped to warm the bather. In essence, these baths could replace the modern anti-perspirant and overcoat.

As it was in the ancient hot spring baths of Japan, known as "sentoo", the unclothed companionship facilitates friendly communication. This allows bathing to become both a powerful physical experience and a soothing mental experience for users by allowing relaxation, rejuvenating users suffering from exhaustion, and eliminating stress.

Louis William Tullo -- 2005