Surprising number of Japanese kids still bathe with their parents up until high school

By Meg Murphy, RocketNews24

As shocking as it may sound to a Westerner’s ears, some Japanese kids continue bathing with their parents up until high school. It turns out, though, that doing so may have a positive impact on their grades.

When was the last time you took a bath as opposed to a shower? I remember a poll we took in my second grade class back in grade school, where each student was given a cup of water and one by one we were asked to come up and pour our cup into a bucket on the right if we took showers, or into a bucket on the left if we took baths. I watched the shower bucket fill up more and more before it was my turn, feeling somewhat embarrassed as I poured my cup into the still-shallow bucket for baths.

It seems many people in Western countries “graduate” to showers rather early in life, saving baths only for special occasions or when you just feel like having a good, long soak. But in Japan, bathing is a big part of the country’s culture, as evidenced not only by the high-tech baths available in Japanese homes, which can automatically refill or reheat bath-water at the touch of a button, but also by the thousands of public baths and hot springs across the nation.

Bathing with strangers may seem odd enough if you’re not used to it, but would it be any weirder for you to bathe at home with your family members, particularly your parents? In Japan it’s not unusual at all for young children to bathe with their parents, but it seems that the age when kids outgrow bath time with Mom and Dad is a lot later than what was expected, with some kids up through junior high and even high school age having reported still bathing with parents.

Perhaps even more surprising, though, is that some of those adolescents are taking baths with their parent of the opposite gender—mothers bathing with sons, and fathers sharing tubs with daughters.

The results of a survey in which women in their 20s and 30s were asked whether they still bathed with their fathers in junior high and in high school showed that more than 10% of women from both age groups still shared a tub in junior high. While the percentage dropped by nearly half for women in their 30s, just under 10% of women in their 20s said they still bathed with their dads even when they were in high school.

In the West, parents bathing with their child of the opposite sex is nearly unheard of, and would even have some proposing that it constitutes sexual abuse, but with different cultures come different social norms. While some Japanese have voiced their surprise at the fact that there are kids beyond grade school still bathing with their parents, as made clear by the numbers it is not as uncommon as one would think.

Plus, as one school has found, there may actually even be benefits to kids bathing with their parents. The undisclosed private boys’ school surveyed their second-year junior high students, finding that nearly half of them still bathed with their mothers, and noting that those students tended to have better grades. This is thought to be the effect of “skinship”, a Japanese term used to describe close physical contact. The Japanese aversion to physical contact and public displays of affection is well-known, but an increasing number of people are realizing its benefits.

Sources: Sirabee, Papimami, NAVER Matome

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- New father dresses like iconic pop culture characters and takes baths with his kid -- Can’t finish all your sake? Try bathing in it for healthy, younger-looking skin! -- We visit the Guinness World Record-holding oldest hotel in the world – established 705 A.D.!

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To clarify the writer. In Japan they are not bathing in the tub. The tub is only for soaking. The water is steaming hot and the tub deep, typically up to ones neckline. Cleansing occurs at the shower next to the tub usually. This is done sitting on a low wood stool washing ones body then pouring buckets of water over yourself to rinse off soap and there is a handheld shower at sitting level. Soaps are absolutly forbidden in the tub.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

For many westerners, myself included, we don't have public bathing or any practices that involve being naked around other people, outside of sex and maybe the doctor. I was uncomfortable with hot springs when I first moved to Japan. Over the years though, I've managed to shed that feeling, and I love going to onsen now. Japanese people go to hot springs as family, with friends, and sometimes with their schools, and so they are more used to being naked around other people when bathing. On this note, it's not so strange to be naked around family members, even as they get older. Many families go to the hot springs together even as adults, and fathers/sons and mothers/daughters go in together.

There are some western cultures that have similar customs as well. One that comes to mind is Finland, where the word sauna comes from, where people enter the sauna together naked.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

I met an executive from Meiji-Yasuda once and he was explaining to me how he still bathes daily with his high school daughter. I was pretty much speechless in shock

2 ( +4 / -2 )

One of our daughters showered with me until she was seven. If I tried to lock her out she would bang on the door and cry, and my wife would ask me to let her in. I know nothing funny was going on, but it was not what I was used to. I confess I was glad when she started bathing herself without me. It doesn't bother me that the Japanese sometimes bathe together. It is just a matter of cultural differences, I think. When I visited my relatives in the Old Country, in Europe, I noticed that they were much less hung up about sex than we were here in the States.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I love the family bath time here and the way the bathrooms are set up to comfortably facilitate it but it's a time I will cherish whilst my kids are small only.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

High school aged would be inappropriate for me. Thats an uncomfortable feeling I couldn't shed. I think most American fathers would agree. That age-group need their own privacy.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

"In the West, parents bathing with their child of the opposite sex is nearly UNHEARD OF, and would even have SOME proposing that it constitutes SEXUAL ABUSE"

I think it would be more than "some" people who think this...

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I think it would be more than "some" people who think this...

That doesn't mean they are right.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

While the statistics are interesting, the author of the article seems to be confused as to bathing practises in Japan, as pointed out by Glenn.

Worth keeping in mind, the term 'bathe' refers to the general act of cleansing one's body, if not wading/swimming in a body of water. In doing so one needn't go anywhere near a bath(tub). As such the focus on 'showering' is a little misplaced here since, while showering is also common in Japan, many will do exactly as Glenn described and wash without actively-running water going whilst sitting on a stool, then rinse off once they're done and maybe soak in a tub afterward.

That statistic could thus well mean families who clean themselves whilst in each other's company and/or soak in a bath together after.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I met an executive from Meiji-Yasuda once and he was explaining to me how he still bathes daily with his high school daughter.

I met a woman who told me, between giggles, that her husband and pre-teen daughter still bathe together, and that he sometimes pats the girl's chest and tells her "you're getting bigger now!"

I was pretty much speechless in shock.

You took the words right out of my mouth.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

"just under 10% of women in their 20s said they still bathed with their dads even when they were in high school"

So that means OVER NINETY PERCENT did not. That means that over 90% of Japanese are wondering where this article came from. The title being:

"Surprising number of Japanese kids still bathe with their parents up until high school"

The only surprise is that the number is so LOW!!

"The Japanese aversion to physical contact... is well-known"

A classic tell-tale sign of an abuse victim...

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

To clarify the one trying to clarify the writer(who was correct in what he wrote...)

"Bathing" is the washing of the body with a fluid, usually water or an aqueous solution, OR the immersion of the body in water. It may be practised for personal hygiene, religious ritual or therapeutic purposes.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

SkinShip can only go so far. As long as the parent child relations are healthy and above board ie non sexual then fine. Nakedness is natural. Families should bathe and shower together. But in a world where perverts operate under the radar, i'd say be careful moms and dads, girls and boys. Underage sexual molestation is not so healthy. But hey we were all born in our birthday suits. I love nudity without perversion or intimidation. A father patting a teen girl's growing breasts is not healthy for the girl. It borders on molestation. But hey, all in the family is cool. A healthy sexually mature family that is.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

how big are these tubs? I've lived in like three different houses in Japan, and have yet to come across a bathtub that could fit 2 adults. Probably not the question to be asking here, but still.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I feel that too many people make too big of a deal over nothing. It truly is nothing (in my eyes) if you have a clear and honest mindset. If a father or mother takes a bath with their child until he or she is in their early to late teens, what honestly is the big deal. Too much thinking about nothing. Love runs much deeper than being naked around each other. Now, if a child feels the need for privacy, then of course give it to them. There truly is nothing sexual about it.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I've lived in like three different houses in Japan, and have yet to come across a bathtub that could fit 2 adults.

If you buy a decent sized condominium (3 or 4 bedrooms) your bathing area will be 1620, or 1.6 meters by 2 meters. The bathtubs are big enough for 2 adults or, in my case, 1 adult and 2 kids.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Our tub fits two adults and one kid.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

A Japanese man was arrested in a Western nation recently when his daughter wrote that she was looking forward to bathing with her father at the weekend. And a younger gitl said that she didn't like bathing with daddy to her kindergarten teacher same results

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I have 3 kids and it is normal for my whole family, with 2 boys and 1 girl in elementary school, to take baths together.

I actually can't understand how any father or mother would want to harm, internally or externally, their child.

My father and mother acted very English about nudity, and i feel it made it worse for me as it makes nudity seem dirty and obscene.

In the family, like naturalism, it's only as wierd and perverted as you yourself make it out to be as most parents love their kids so so deeply, as i do my kids. I don't want my kids to treat the opposite sex as only sexual objects. We are all human beings who want to be loved and understood, without judgement. Of course, if my boys or girl ever feel uncomfortable with taking baths together, they don't need to.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Old article, but I was thinking bout this very topic just the other day. I was raised in a family with no nudity around each other, and it gave me hangups about nudity as well. With my own family though, any of us walks around the house naked and bathe together, even with a 9 year old boy and 7 year old girl. It's a non-issue, none of us cares.

To me, having been on both sides of it, it says to me that nudity as a hangup is taught, not natural.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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