Everyday life in Japan — Part 5

The “Shower Room”


This is the shower in our apartment bathroom. It is actually its own room… fairly typical in size to a small bathroom. It is just off the sink/washing machine room, and has a watertight glass door. It has a tub, and a shower head, a mirror, and shelves for shampoos and soaps. But there, the similarity stops. This little room, is entirely the shower. The whole room — is the shower. It took me a while to get used to this idea. For the first few days here, I kept trying to climb into the tub and take my shower there.  The problem with that, was that the shower head was not over the tub area, and even when I swiveled the head as far as possible toward the tub, it still sprayed half in and half out of the tub area. Besides…  the tub surface was slippery, and was hard to stand in. The floor of the room is like a cushy non-slip mat. There is a drain hole ( at the bottom of this photo) on the floor, and under that cover is a screen to catch hair and debris to keep from clogging the drain.


Outside of the shower room…  on the wall, is a small control panel. This controls the ventilation in the shower room. It has an automatic timer to set for the amount of time you want the air to circulate. Pink button turns on heated air, yellow button blows ambient air, and the blue button blows cool air. Red button turns the unit off. The air circulation is very important to keep the moisture levels from building up in the apartment, and to dry the shower area to prevent mold and mildew formation. It has been winter here since we moved in, so we usually turn on the heated air while we are using the shower, and then switch to ambient air afterward to dry the room. This system is also useful as a dryer for laundry when it is too cold, rainy, or windy to hang the clothes out on the balcony. Remember… we don’t really have a true clothes dryer here (see previous blog post.)


Traditionally in Japan, The tub is ONLY used for soaking. See the faucet on the wall? There is a faucet down which is usually used to fill a basin or small water tub with water. Traditional bath etiquette dictates that the bather sit on a small stool and wash with soap and water from the basin. Once the bather is clean, they rinse all the soap off with the hand-held sprayer, and then enter the tub to soak in CLEAN hot water. So the tub is actually used more like a hot tub. If you go to a traditional public bath in Japan, you are expected to bathe first, rinse thoroughly, and then you can get into the tub. No soap is used in the tub. Some apartments will provide a cover for the tub, so that you can save the water and use it again. This same water can be shared among family members…  just like sharing a hot tub.


Next to the tub is a small control panel for the water temperature, and to fill the tub. The right hand side displays the temperature for the tub, the left for the shower. Other buttons fill the tub, increase the temperature, lower the temperature (by adding cold water) and… there is a heat and recirculate button that will reheat water already in the tub.  We haven’t tried keeping the water and reheating it…  but that might be a handy feature to save the water for soaking. Mostly, we just use the shower. The few times we have used the soaker tub, though, were really nice. And yes… the controls are all in Japanese… I have to use my cheat sheet from the relocation company to know what each of those buttons is for.


The faucet flips up to divert water flow to the shower, and down, to turn the water on below. The left side of the faucet has another control for water temperature by mixing in unheated water. There are convenient shelves and a mirror — all of which end up getting wet with the shower. The whole room gets wet…

2016-03-12fThis is the all-important room dryer/heater/ventilator/clothes dryer on the ceiling of the shower room — and the bars from which we hang clothing and towels to dry. These bars are removable to be used on hooks in front of the balcony door, for optional fresh air drying in nice weather.

All in all, though this process has been strange to get used to, it is a fairly efficient use for bathroom space. It provides a traditional Japanese bathing experience, that has been easily adaptable to our western tastes.


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My husband and I were both born and raised in Kansas, but for the past 20+ years we have been living in Atlanta, Georgia. Now, with our children grown and out of the house, we have the opportunity to spend two years living in Tokyo. My husband will be working with the Japanese counterpart to his American company. UPDATE 2023... After 4-1/2 years in Tokyo, we returned to Atlanta. Now we are heading to London for a three year job assignment!

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