The procedure is as follows: clean the bath and bathroom until everything is spotless and turn on the hot water, or in Japan, the thermostatically-controlled circulating system. When the bath is at the preferred temperature and depth and has been stirred to ensure an even temperature ( possibly with an ‘oyukaki’ ), the cover is put in position to maintain the temperature and an announcement is made that the bath is ready, visitors first. Slipping off their clothes in the ‘ante-room’, the first person enters the waterproof bathroom. It’s virtually a boat in reverse. Here you can slosh and splash bucketloads of water in great abandon at no risk to the floor and walls. And they do.
Firstly you sit on a low stool and wash yourself, sometimes taking water from the bath itself with a ladle or a basin, or using a handshower. The lower half of your body is soaped and rinsed first, and then you are up to your chin soaking in the tub. Sooner or later you’re out and going through the whole process once again, but this time soaping and scrubbing all over, shaving, brushing, rubbing... until you are glistening, pristine, newborn. Back to the tub now and the long soak, unlimited, whereupon you emerge chrysalis-like to rinse perhaps again under a handshower ( ‘agariyu’ ), as if one needs to when the bath water is surely just as clean. The devoted may even return to the bath a third time. The European adaptation is to take a quick shower and jump in.
Outside, if someone is listening, they firstly hear the noisiest of activities with water, gallons surely, going in all directions it would seem, followed by a silence that seems to last forever.
And so it happens for more than 100 million Japanese people everyday.