Bathing is deeply rooted in Japanese culture and heritage. The history of bathing in Japan dates from the 6th century and some bathhouses in Japan have been in use for over 3,000 years.
There are onsen and sentō in Japan. Onsen refer to hot springs that are naturally available near the volcanic areas of Japan. While the onsen exists purely for relaxation and the health benefits of nutrient-rich water, the sentō are establishments which serve a purpose of daily hygiene and these are usually man-made.
There are many benefits of hot springs and there are specific requirements to ensure that the onsen can deliver the level of warmth and nutrients for optimal effect. The water must be at least 25 degrees Celsius at the source and it must contain certain mineral content. There are three different types of “rests' ' in Toji which is hot spring healing or balneotherapy. There is rest for recreation, which helps with fatigue, rest for heath, which is for maintaining health and preventing illness, and rest for medical treatment, when recovery from an illness is needed.
Korean bathhouses, or jimjilbangs meaning heated rooms are 24/7 communal bath houses with separate areas for men and women. They offer a wide variety of things such as food service, both hot and cold pools, a seawater bath, salt room, different temperature saunas, baths, and dry heated rooms. There are additional services to promote circulation through deep body scrubs with milk and water. If you absolutely fall in love with the jimjilbangs, you can even spend the night here!
Turkish baths or the hammams are a type of steam bath or place for public bathing and they trace back to Roman times. The Turkish hammam is split into three areas: a hot steam room, a warm room for bathing, and a cool room for resting. Traditional hammams are separated by sex but both genders practice similar bathing rituals.
The hammam experience is about leaving yourself in the hands of your tellak or natir. These are the male or female caretakers that guide visitors through each area of the bath. The hammams offer a number of different services, a traditional Turkish bath package includes 45 minutes of washing, traditional body scrubbing with handwoven wash cloth known as a kese, a foam wash, and a massage. Each of these services are both cleansing and relaxing.
In Italy, Terme or thermal baths are seen throughout southern Tuscany and northern Lazio. Due to the shifting volcanic hot plate in these areas, you can soak and relax in pools of emerging hot, usually sulfur-based water. There are two different types of thermal bathing: the natural and wild or in Italy, the centro benessere or spa type. Today, these natural springs are free for use while the spa type costs money and ranges in price.
Bathing was a practice known to the Greeks of both genders from early on as the sixth century. Their first bathing structures were built near natural hot springs; they recognized the healing properties that water could provide and eventually went on to build communal bath houses within the cities.
They pioneered the idea of a hot-air bath or what we know today as a steam bath. The water for these baths was heated directly by coal burning fires or another method including hot rocks. This method consisted of heating up rocks in another room and bringing them inside the bath. Natural plants such as juniper branches, fir or pine were incorporated in these steam baths for their therapeutic effects, much like today's aromatherapy. We can thank Greece for many of the spa treatments we know and use today!