In the past, Japanese people enjoyed the daily ritual with their friends and neighbours in a public bath (the sento) or in a hot spring bath (the onsen). It was not until the middle of this century that the provision of a water supply made it possible for most people to have a private ofuro, although the onsen and the sento remain popular for many Japanese people.
This Japanese sweat bath, called simply furo by Japanese people, which means “bath”, has become an integral part of Japanese life. It exists in two different variations. In ofuro, the bather sits in a wooden pool filled with hot thermal water, heated to the temperature of 40 to 50 ºC. Inside the pool there is bench to sit on, but not the entire body is dipped in the water. The upper part of the body, above the level of heart, is always out of the water and thus, is just heated by the hot steam of the chamber. Dipping in the hot furo is a traditional Japanese ritual, believed to relax the body, purify the mind and clear thoughts. Another variation of ofuro is a bath with cedar sawdust heated to 60 ºC, which has an additional aromatic and healing effect and perfectly absorbs sweat.