bathing culture: guest post by tara of to the bath

This guest post is courtesy my friend Tara, who I'm pretty sure has the most refined and delicate taste of anyone that I know. Having a conversation with her can teach me so much! Tara maintains a Tumblr about the art of bathing called to the bath, and I asked if she could write a post about the topic since it's something I would never think to do on my own. I'm so pleased she did. -Anabela

Short bits of travel have introduced me to the many ways I can experience a culture. The ways in which people eat, shop, get themselves around, build their houses and organize their cities are propositions on a way of life. I can read about it, get sore feet from wandering around, or spend money at restaurants. I want, and will do, all of those things, but increasingly my travel dreams are focused on those countries that take their bathing very, very seriously.

Ryokan Musouen's outdoor hot spring bath, in Yufu, Japan (via yasuhiro)

For me, the bath and its accompanying routine lets me 'read,' through the body, more cerebral cultural differences –- historical advancements in infrastructure, the individual within a larger group, and notions of personal shame (or lack of!). I don't always speak the language or know all of the social codes, but I would like to think that immersing myself in a culture's bathing tradition is a way to begin to feel the culture itself.

I love that similarities emerge. Heat, water, shadows, and a view usually make my perfect bath.

Mambukal Mountain Resort's sulfur springs, in Murcia, Philippines (via farl)

Alemanys 5 holiday apartments in Girona, Spain, by architect Anna Noguera (via Dezeen)

Therme Vals hotel and bath, in Vals, Switzerland, by architect Peter Zumthor (via dod)

Dunton Hot Springs Resort, near Telluride, Colorado


  1. Relaxing!!! :D

  2. I must confess, after I visited Japan, I too now have a whole new appreciation for bathing!

    What a great post!! :D

  3. I visited Bath in England and I always think it must have been such a neat experience to go to those community bath houses with warm mineral water and steam.

  4. Anonymous5.5.11

    i love these baths. and hot springs! ah. so serene and calming. :-)

  5. I would never have thought to look at a culture through their bathing rituals. And I really want to take a hot bath now! Even just the pictures are relaxing.

  6. Looks so relaxing. There's a place in Collingwood that I visited in February called Le Scandinave. It's a Nordic Day Spa that has hot & cold baths, as well as steam & sauna rooms.

    It's a fun day trip!

  7. aw shucks, thanks anabela!

  8. So incredibly stunning and thought-provoking. Thank you for introducing me to this/her!!!


  9. I want to be where the first photo was taken, looks like an amazing place!

  10. Even looking at these photographs is relaxing. When I am in Japan, going to onsen's is how I make sense of my stays in Tokyo. I was hoping there was a spa somewhere that consisted only of different types of bathing rooms. Not just variations on one theme but each room a very different experience unto itself. There must be. Maybe you know?

  11. I live in Japan and I think Yufuin in Kyushu has some of the best baths I have come across. It's such a ritualized experience to take a bath here.

  12. this looks lovely, what a great topic for a tumblr and a guest post. although i never thought of bathing as a microcosm for cultural values and practices, i can totally see how it would be! i always tell everyone that a good bath can solve almost any ailment... headaches, body aches, stomach aches, sore feet... i will now be brainstorming on how to take my bathing experience more seriously. thanks tara and anabela!

  13. @Swan: so sorry (truly) that I have not yet been to Japan!