The typical Japanese bath is separated from the toilet and sink areas, and consists of a tub for soaking and a wash area. The tub is either filled with hot water or with cold water that is heated by circulation through a boiler. The Japanese bathtub is deep enough to soak in up to the neck, and is used for soaking only. The whole family will use the same hot water to soak, so it is important to wash thoroughly before getting into the tub. The first bath of the day used to be a privilege reserved for the head of the household, but today anyone might be the first to use the bath. Generally, bath time is at night, although in recent years the morning shower has become very common. In a survey made by the My Voice Communications, Inc., 54 percent of respondents said they always or frequently had a bath no matter what the season - 17 percent said they made do with a shower either all of the time or most of the time - and 29 percent said they took showers in the summer and had hot baths in winter. People enjoy bathing together, known as "hadaka no tsukiai," (companionship without adornment). Family members, especially parents and small children, sometimes bathe together, friends and neighbors may also go to public baths and hot springs together to enjoy a time of companionship and fun. For this reason some 6,300 public baths are still in business in Japan in 2001, even though most homes have their own baths. Young people seem less interested in the traditional custom of bathing together than their elders.
Another custom is to place seasonal plants and fruits in the bathtub for special events. For example, a sheaf of iris leaves may be placed in the bath on the 5th of May, which is Children's Day - and in midwinter at the winter solstice, fragrant yuzu citruses will be often floated in the tub.
"A day in The Life: Ofuro,"The Japan Forum Newsletter No.6 June 1996