What Is A Japanese Soaking Tub? | Everything Explained

Were you travelling abroad or perhaps took a weekend at an exclusive spa and saw a small tub filled to the brim with steaming water? What was that? It may have been a Japanese soaking tub. They are being included in many bathrooms and luxury suites across the country. What is so special about a Japanese soaking tub?

In this post, I’ll explain what a Japanese soaking tub is, its pros and cons as well as answer some other questions on the topic.

Let’s dive in!

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What Is A Japanese Soaking Tub?

Known as ofuro in Japan, a Japanese soaking tub is a small but deep and steep-sided bath, typically with a built-in seat, so the user can sit fully emerged up to their chest in the water. They’re designed for a relaxing and cleansing bathing experience.

Japanese soaking tubs have been used for centuries as a place to soak in the hot mineral spring waters found throughout the island nation without visiting an actual spring. Soaking in an ofuro not only cleanses the body but is also considered crucial for purifying the mind and soul. Slide beneath the warm water that comes up to your chest for a comfortable total immersion.

You have likely seen a Japanese-style soaking tub if you love watching home design shows and videos and may recognize one from its unique shape. They are much deeper than a traditional bath and shower combination, sometimes as high as 700 mm.

They have a seat built into the side, so you don’t sit on the bottom with your legs outstretched. Some are a circle shape and, in some instances, look like a barrel. However, they are available in a range of shapes and sizes.


A soaking tub has a smaller footprint compared to a regular bath, so it can fit into a smaller bathroom. You may add a step on the side to allow for easier access into the tub. The taps are often freestanding or wall-mounted and not attached to the actual tub.

While the waste includes an overflow near the lip of the tub, you will likely want to add a floor drain to the bathroom. Standing up in a full soaking tub often results in the water splashing over the edge. 

Traditional soaking tubs were crafted from aromatic Hinoki wood, which emits a light, spicy, lemony scent when filled with warm water. When the ofuro tradition reached the shores of Europe and America, other aromatic woods were employed.

You may find them made from cedar, sandalwood, or agarwood. The high oil content in these woods also helps the tub to resist rot and can last for decades when properly aged before being used as a soaking tub.

Modern bath designers are now crafting the same shape and size soaking tubs out of contemporary materials including acrylic, stainless steel, therapeutic copper, and porcelain composites. Spa manufacturers are making versions with jets, heated seats, lights, and massaging elements.

A deep soaking tub will be a unique addition to your modern home design. With finishes such as hammered copper or brushed metal, they fit in well with the industrial trend. Order a custom piece with finishes that closely match your marble wall panels or concrete wet room.

Japanese Soaking Tub


The price for a Japanese soaking tub will vary considerably. For a modern tub built out of acrylic, expect to spend about £500. Handcrafted traditional wood soaking tubs can top out at £10,000 as they may include a surrounding platform, stairs, benches, and jets.

If you want the deep soaking experience in a more familiar design, look for a slipper or roll-top bath. These European baths may not include a seat inside but deliver on the desire for a chest-deep soak in a fixture that complements your vintage decor.

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Advantages Of A Japanese Soaking Tub

  • Japanese soaking tubs are designed to support the overall health of the user, so they are easier to get in and out of compared to your traditional bath.  Steps and a seat provide safe access for seniors and the mobility challenged.
  • You get a whole body soak without having to struggle with a bath that is too short or too shallow.
  • While the tub is deeper, it actually uses less water to fill it up to the top.
  • The smaller footprint makes it a smart upgrade for compact luxury ensuites.
  • Its circular and freestanding design means you need to move fewer pipes when plumbing a new tub.
  • Modern bath designers are crafting soaking tubs in a range of materials that complement your bath decor.
  • Look for tubs with jets and heated seats for a more luxurious soak.

Disadvantages Of A Japanese Soaking Tub

  • You will pay significantly more for a Japanese soaking tub than a traditional bath. You may need to also add a floor drain and thoroughly waterproof the floor to prevent damage from splashing.
  • A soaking tub can be combined with a shower, but it won’t be a good match. The high sides may restrict your movement while dancing under the water.
  • The soaking tub will not be a good option for washing the dog or oversized bedding since it is much deeper. You may not be able to reach the bottom while standing next to it.
Japanese Soaking Tub

What Size Is A Japanese Soaking Tub?

Your standard bath generally has a depth of 370 mm, while a Japanese soaking tub can be twice as deep around 700mm.

Most traditional baths are 700mm wide and 1500mm to 1800mm long. A Japanese soaking bath can be round with a small 900mm diameter. Some are longer, ranging from 900mm to 1200mm long while maintaining the standard 700mm width.

These tubs are not as long as your regular bath as you are not intended to stretch your legs out on the bottom. You are sitting down like in a chair.

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Do Japanese Soaking Tubs have Seats?

Yes, there is a low seat on the inside of a Japanese soaking tub. Some designs are built for two and will have side-by-side or facing seats. You are intended to sit down and rest your back, neck, and sometimes arms on the sides of the tub.

Many users find that the seat helps them get in and out of their deep soaker tub, which becomes more challenging with age. A step and handrail can further improve access.

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Final Thoughts…

There you have it! Everything you need to know about Japanese soaking tubs.

While certainly not as common in bathrooms across Europe and America, the Japanese soaking tub is gaining in popularity as more manufacturers are bringing out new models using various materials.

A luxurious, deep and relaxing bathing experience, would you add a Japanese soaking tub to your new bathroom design?


Michael R

Michael is a KBB designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new Kitchen, Bedroom and Bathroom installations for over eight years now, and before that, he was an electrician and part of a KBB fitting team. He created The Bathroom Blueprint in early 2020.