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Bathing Habit: Japan and Indonesia Comparison

Written by Zahra Annisa Fitri (81822200028)
for Ritsumeikan University PBL Program's Cross Cultural Encounters course 


Bathing or showering is part of a human's daily routine to keep the body clean, with every country having its way of doing so. In my country, Indonesia, the traditional way, which is still common, is to scoop up the water in a plastic dipper named gayung and pour it over the body while standing on the bathroom floor. A bathtub is not as common as gayung, but Indonesian people are still familiar with it, though not every household has it. Thus, I am delighted to have a bathtub in my shared house and easily find bathtubs in Japan's hotels. But, the Japanese are also familiar with bathing together, and completely naked. I have known this culture, so I am not shocked. Still, no matter how much I love bathing (and trying something new), I can not try bathing together because it is considered embarrassing, especially in Indonesia.

(148 words)

Main Body

All the group members are Japanese, except me and the other one who is Indian but was born in Japan. Most of us usually use a shower for bathing, but using a bathtub is common too, mainly because hot water is effective in helping relax and soothe tense muscles. A hot tub is also the perfect winter treat. However, my Indian friend and I more rarely use a bathtub because our houses do not have a bathtub, as there is no bathing culture in India and Indonesia.

Not being Japanese also makes us not used to sharing bath water and taking baths together. We are too embarrassed to do it by ourselves. Nevertheless, Japanese members said that taking a bath together naked is good because we can talk and deepen the relationship, although a small number of the Japanese members also do not do it and prefer a bath alone.

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Bathing together is still very much part of Japanese culture. It reflects an essential aspect of Japanese culture: the Japanese emphasize the group more than the individual (Clark, 1994). Meanwhile, having the largest Muslim population in the world shaped Indonesia's society tightly with Islamic values (Meyer, 2019). In Islam, men and women have awrah (must-cover body parts), and anyone must not look at another's awrah regardless of gender.

Culture greatly influences someone's behavior. Meanwhile, behavior change is complicated and complex (Call, 2022). An Indonesian student living in Japan stated that it took weeks for him to try onsen (Irwantoro, n.d.). Another example is when an American first used gayung and bucket for bathing in Indonesia; he was a bit concerned but got used after a few uses (Wicked Adventure, 2015).

The lesson learned is to do things at your own pace while respecting each other's culture. Also, we can adapt and be able to do anything as long as we try.

(150 words)


Call, M. (2022). Why is Behavior Change So Hard?. Retrieved from

Clark, S. (1994). Japan, A View from the Bath: A View from the Bath. University of Hawaii Press.

Irwantoro, K. (n.d.). Culture Shock - The Bathtub Edition. Retrieved from

Meyer, P. K. (2019). Indonesian Muslims: Believers in Islam or cultural Muslims?. Retrieved from

Wicked Adventures. (2015). How to use A Mandi – an Indonesian Shower. Retrieved from


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