Have you ever wanted to experience traditional relaxation from Japan? Well, we are going to do just that and talk about the ultimate in Japanese relaxation. I’m of course talking about the Ofuro Cafe. The Ofuro Cafe is your one stop shop for everything relaxing. It is very big in Japan but not so much over the rest of the world. Except maybe in Scandinavian countries where they practice a similar concept but in very different ways. So, prepare yourselves for something truly amazing that you may never have heard of before.
What is Ofuro?
A Furo is a type of Japanese soaking bath tub. They are often found all over the country from houses to ryokans (traditional Japanese Inns). They are different than a bathtub in the west as it is usually just meant for soaking and as such is straight edged as opposed to curved. You would wash before entering one of these to relax in. The traditional Furo’s where made from solid wood in the past but now are often made out of metals and plastics. Furo is the more informal term for these bathtubs where as Ofuro is slightly more formal. You would definitely use Ofuro in public and Furo in private.
What is an Ofuro Cafe?
So, now you know what one of the tubs is it seems fairly simple what an Ofuro Cafe is. Or does it? You may be thinking it is simply like a foot bath but with a full soaking tub instead of just bathing your feet. Whilst that is a huge part of it these cafes offer so much more than that. Not only do they have the traditional Ofuro tubs but you can also take naps in hammocks in many of these places. Not to mention the fact that some of these places offer other types of relaxation such as sitting in comfortable chairs watching something on screens or listening to music.
Most of these cafe’s though will offer the customer the chance to rent and read a book whilst they are relaxing in the tub. They also serve tea and coffee that some places will often give free refils too. Some places such as the cafe in Utatane in Tokyo offer a good selection of foods too. This place also has the option for you to sleep their in their private rooms over night. If you have had such a wonderful day of relaxation there and don’t want to leave then this option may well be for you.
If bathing is not your thing then don’t worry, most places will have some space for relaxing for everyone. If you just want to sit and be at peace you often can. Or, like previously said, you can use comfortable chairs or hammocks to rest in. Some places even have computer screens that allow you to relax usuing your favourite online based game or video. This may well be a rarer treat though and probably not the norm for most cafe’s.
If you know anything about Japan and public politeness it will come as no shock that there are certain rules to abide by in one of these places. Tattoos are strictly not allowed in most of them. Some, however, will allow small ones if they can easily be covered up by a waterproof sticker. Sorry for all you tattoo lovers out there.
There are the basics, too, like taking off your shoes and keeping your towel with you in public areas. These two are fairly well known public bathing etiquette rules. Almost everyone knows it and abiding by these two simple rules you can almost guarantee a pleasent time. A shared public experience that will please the people around you and yourselves.
Following all of these simple rules makes life a lot easier. When everyone follows these rules it is a much more relaxed and freeing experience.
The communal style of places like this may very well seem a little strange at first to non natives of Japan. You will often find common areas with lots of people relaxing and enjoying themselves. They may be varied in that some people may be having a massage whilst someone close by drinks coffee and reads a book. The community style will probably seem really strange to most westerners at first but I urge you to bare with it. This is something you will not regret once you have gained the knowledge and gotten past the initial fear of public bathing.
There is a big market for places like this in big cities like Tokyo. Tokyo is a massively populated city where apartment space is scarse to say the least. So people living in the city often do not have the luxury of bathing and relaxing on a scale anywhere near that of Ofuro Cafes or even Onsen.
When you visit these places and check in you will often get some indoor clothes. These clothes are similar to pyjamas. They are casual and relaxed attire that enables for breathing and total comfort and relaxation. There is no clothing other than that so everyone is as comfy as the last person. This also avoids any etiquette problems regarding outside clothing.
Often in Ofuro cafe’s you can get extra special relaxation treatments ranging from facial treatments, massages or even aromatherapy. It truly does embody the true sense of relaxation. Of course the price of these services will differe massively from place to place. And the price to enter a cafe and relax generally will also differ vastly from spot to spot.
Sometimes you may even find massage chairs. Massage chairs are electrical chairs that massage your shoulders down through the back right down to the feet. These are inexpensive ways to relax and if you visit one of these chairs inside one of these cafes then you may want to pick up that book and a cup of coffee and relax properly.
So, there you have it, the ultimate relaxation of the Ofuro Cafe’s in Japan. Whether you want a quick thirty minute soak in an authentic and traditional Furo tub or you want a full day and night of complete relaxation then you are covered. I will warn you in advance though, you will have to book for some places because of sheer popularity. Don’t let this stop you though. In the west we may think that something like this is completely out of the ordinary for us but once you have experienced it first hand you will never want to leave. Enjoy yourselves in these cafe’s and have a great time relaxing.
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