The practice of tea baths date back tens of thousands of years to the Indian Vedas in 1500 B.C. where Ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, and Hebrews celebrated the hygienic and healing benefits. Since then, the practice of tea baths have been passed from one generation to the next and one culture to the other to the extent to where today, tea baths are celebrated around the world. At Inoki Bathhouse, we take great pride in our Asian-inspired roots, so it is also important to us to learn about the other cultures involved as well. The discovery of where our beloved tea baths originate from brings us a greater understanding of and appreciation for each bath we take, making it all the more enjoyable and relaxing. We hope it does the same for you too!
Let us first begin with the Ancient Egyptians. Ancient Egyptians were among the first to adopt bathing into their daily routine. After all, it was said that the cleaner the person was, the closer they were to the gods. In fact, some spells from The Egyptian Book of the Dead are not able to be spoken by one who is not “clean” or “presentable.” Accordingly, coupled with the hot hot weather, Egyptians often bathed up to 4 times a day.
To clean themselves during and after a bath, Egyptians used essential oils, flower oils, and natron, a soda ash that makes soap when blended with oil, but is also used to mummify the dead. These oils and ointments were manufactured by professionals using the finest natural ingredients and most trusted production methods to highlight the cultural value of hygiene. Examples include cinnamon, peppermint, sweet marjoram, Indian frankincense, white lily, olive, sesame, castor, and oils from an almonds. This was the first introduction to tea baths in the world.
The rich had their own private chambers while everyone else bathed in the Nile River, but no matter the class, every household would have some sort of basin for bathing. This way, Egyptians could wash themselves after they woke up, before they went to bed, and even before and after every meal.
Of course, what is bathing without Cleopatra, the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt. Cleopatra may have encouraged the rising interest around tea baths as she was famous for bathing in rose petals, aromatic herbs, and donkey milk to soften and smoothen her skin, earning her the admiration that comes along with radiating beauty. However, to do so, records report that 700 donkeys had to be lactated each day. Fortunately, our products are a lot easier to use.
Greece and Rome
Then, came Hippocrates, the Greek physician known as the Father of Medicine. He drew inspiration from the healing properties of these Ancient Egyptians baths to begin developing his own teachings of hydrotherapy, a therapy in which water is used to heal the body. This practice was then adopted by Roman physicians who fell in love with the fragrant decoctions and balmy ointments used. Gradually, tea baths spread throughout the entire Mediterranean.
For the Romans, bathing was considered entertainment, and even a way of life. To elaborate, most people could not afford their own baths, so afternoons were spent at public baths. These public baths became so popular that the government had to set rules and vendors flooded in to sell food and drinks. Roman social life also revolved around these public baths, as this was where everyone caught up with old friends and made new ones.
However, just when you thought that this was all these baths did for the people, there’s more. Scholars recommended tea baths for reproductive, urinary, and intestinal disorders, skin diseases and allergies, poisonous animal stings, as well as nervous and cardiovascular diseases. Additionally, tea baths were known to treat stress, anxiety, colds, bad moods, and fatigue, invigorating the circulatory system and putting both the mind and body at ease.
The Greco-Roman culture of bathing with tea and herbs spread throughout the world, including Asia, and subsequently, the country of Japan. In the ancient days, people bathed in natural hot springs known as onsen. This practice is said to have originated from “misogi,” the act of cleansing your body before visiting a shrine for the spirits. These hot springs were also not particularly hard to find considering that Japan is one of the most volcanic countries in the world.
Afterwards, nearing the end of the 16th century, Japan was introduced to sentos, public bathhouses for all ages and genders. These were seen as the center of community life, as, similar to the Romans, everyone gathered here to catch up! However, bathing was more than just for cleaning the body. Japan associated water with purification and the cleaner one was, the deeper the connection to the spirits.
This may have been the inspiration for the globally renowned Studio Ghibli film Spirited Away. The film mostly takes place at a bathhouse that looks fairly similar to Dogo Onsen, Japan’s oldest hot spring bathhouse. Here, the main character, Chihiro, finds herself having to work for the owner of the bathhouse and thereby having to tend to the spirits who come to freshen up. This film was one of the first times Asian culture, with an emphasis on the rich, yet unexplored, culture of bathing, was so beautifully expressed and portrayed in animation. It is truly a pivotal film for the Asian community, yet has not won only our hearts, but also the hearts of the entire world. That said, it is no surprise that Spirited Away is one of our inspirations for our tea bathhouse products!
Here at Inoki Bathhouse, we are advocates for not only the hygienic and healing properties of tea baths, but also the tens of thousands of years of culture held within a sealed bag of herbs. Today, we are more than proud to share with you our three tea bathhouse experiences, Garden Bathhouse, Mountain Fog Bathhouse, and our newest release, the Ancient Forest Bathhouse. More information on our products can be found under the Shop section on our website. Together, we make it possible for you to enjoy our tea baths from the comfort of your own home (not to mention, we don’t require you to lactate 700 donkeys).