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Japanese-style bathtubs invite themselves into the decor of the American bathroom

Soaking tubs come in a variety of materials and shapes. While all of them have an Asian touch, they can fit into a variety of decors. Diamond Spas’ stainless steel elliptical tub is nestled among the white rocks of the river.

Some of us are showers, and some are bathers.

But there is a way to be both, as the Japanese discovered centuries ago when they developed ofuro, or soaking bath.

Traditionally, the Japanese clean themselves with a shower or hand bath, then step into an “ofuro”, a deep tub filled with clean hot water. These tubs are often large enough for several family members to bathe together. It is considered a relaxing and important ritual.

The idea caught on here, and several manufacturers are now making ofuro tubs suitable for a bather or a couple. Usually around 27 inches deep, tubs typically have built-in seats and often a grab bar. They are available in a variety of materials including acrylic, composite, wood, stainless steel, and copper.

If you’ve thought you’d like to add one to your home, here are the sizzling details on some options and what you should consider:


Bill Finlay is the owner of SeaOtter WoodWorks in Haines, Alaska. While making outdoor hot tubs for a few years, he made his first ofuro at the behest of an associate, which sparked interest in furthering the craft.

“I did a few fact-finding trips to Japan, and then I developed my own techniques,” he says.

Finlay manufactures the Hinoki Ofuro in a few sizes, suitable for one or two people. The material is an aromatic cypress native to Japan; the resin is resistant to bacteria and decay and resists moisture. Citrus scent is a common component of aromatherapy.

seaottertub.JPGSeaOtter WoodWorks Scented Hhinoki Cypress Soaking Bath is the Kyoto model with sloping sides.


Holly Rickert, a Wykoff, New Jersey-based tub designer recently won an industry award for a design that incorporated an English tub into a Japanese-style tub.

One of his clients was of Japanese descent and had given him brochures about Japanese spas. She placed the tub, Cabuchon’s curvy Pleasance Plus model, on a bed of river rocks in front of a window with a view of the forest.

“My goal was to replicate the ofuro experience for her,” says Rickert.

Made from a proprietary solid composite called Ficore, Cabuchon tubs are not heavy. The manufacturer says they retain heat better than most acrylics, don’t chip, and can be custom colored.

Kohler makes the Greek tub out of acrylic, a 4 foot long, 23 inch deep single person tub, well suited for a smaller bathroom. The Kallista Perfect Deep Soak tub has two raised corner seats at different heights.


Diamond Spas in Frederick, Colorado, welds recycled copper and stainless steel in tubs lined with foam insulation, then polished to a beautiful Old World finish. Like kitchen pots, copper tubs can be left to develop a patina or made shiny with a polishing compound.

bathtub.JPGAn Asian-style bathtub in an octagonal shape.


Soaking tubs are not as complicated to install as you might think.

The weight factor.

If you install a smaller one or two person tub, you will actually use less water than a conventional tub. But a four-person version can hold a lot of water – almost 250 gallons, compared to about 50 for a conventional tub. Floor joists must therefore be able to support the weight of the water, not just the tub.

Bring him in.

Make sure you can pass the tub sideways through the doors.

Overfill protection

. Many tubs come with a failsafe overflow, but you should also have a drain in the bathroom floor. The river rock bed is an attractive way to hide a draining floor system, but you can also tile the bathroom floor and install a drain.

Enough hot water.

You will need a lot of hot water, so upgrade your system and consider an in-line water heater that constantly heats the full tub.

The spa factor.

There are jet options for many of these models, if you prefer bubbles with your soak.

–Kim Cook
For the associated press

nucretetub.JPGThe Sonoma Cast Stone tub is made from NuCrete.


Kallista products:

Perfect Deep Soak soak, $ 1,695 and up;

In Portland, Kallista products, according to its website, are marketed by:

George Morlan / GMP Design Center,


Ann Sacks,

503-233-0611; and

Ferguson Enterprises Inc.,


Home deposit:

Kohler’s Greek Bath, $ 1,085; stores across Portland and Oregon; 800-HOME-DEPOT (800-466-3337);

Cabuchon bath shapes:

Ficore tubs made in Lancaster, England; + 44-1524-66022;

Designer Holly Rickert:


Diamond Spas:

Stainless steel and copper baths; 800-951-SPAS (800-951-7727);

SeaOtter WoodWorks:

Hinoki bathtubs, $ 5,280 and more; 888-810-7717;

Locally: Check with your bathroom and plumbing supplier to see if they have tubs.

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