2/23/09

Sumi

Did I mention what a great fan I am of Japanese design? Everything around us during our stay in Japantown was possessed of that particular spare grace, that exquisite sense of proportion and balance, that clean and uncluttered aesthetic that typifies Japanese design.
From our bed to the landscaping along the streets below our windows, from the napkins at our dinner table to the faucets in the bathroom...everything was just so.
By our second morning, the rain had gentled to a pleasant drizzle and the low ceiling of the sky had lifted a bit, changing the landscape by a degree or two.
Nevertheless, we reveled in the rare luxury of being able to lounge around in bed of a morning.
Of course, the sheer abandon of QQ's pleasure in that big, downy bed was encouragement enough for us!
Vivian asked about the Japanese bath, and I just happen to have a few more details on that topic to show you. I have read about the Japanese bathing ceremony before, but had never tried it myself. It's deceptively simple. Please correct me if I'm wrong on the details - I'm sure I am. The instructions in the room were very abbreviated for the sake of gaijin visitors, and I have not studied the true ceremony - though I intend to do so now that I've discovered the pleasures!) First, one sits down on a wooden stool outside of the tub in order to cleanse onesself of the day's grime. There is a separate low faucet and a drain in the floor for the water that one uses in this step. To us westerners, it may seem counterintuitive to wash before the bath, much less wet the bathroom floor - but the whole bathroom is designed for this purpose, complete with a tiled lip at the outer door to keep the water from invading the separate sink and mirror space used for ablutions. Forgive me if I explain this clumsily, but I think the point is that the bath itself, the soaking part, is for the spirit and the body, not for removing dirt. The Japanese do not believe in soaking in one's own filth (and, when you think about it, they kind of have a point!) First, seated on the wooden stool, one scrubs onesself down with an exfoliating soap (or a loofa, or something along those lines). Gathering water from the external tap in the wooden bucket, one pours it repeatedly over onesself until all the road dust and grime is rinsed away. This actually feels wonderful. The repetitive motion of filling the bucket and pouring over ones back, head and limbs seems to put one in the right state of mind for the next part of the bathing process.

One can fill the tub while one is performing the first part of the ceremony - it takes a long time to fill a tub this deep. It's hard to tell from the photos, but the tub is only filled a quarter of the way for QQ's bath. Filled to capacity, the water reached my chin - and I'm nearly six feet tall with an exceptionally long back, so that's saying a lot! The bath in the hotel room was rectangular, and very deep - though I believe that traditional tubs in Japan are more square in dimension, and usually made of wood. Again, correct me if I'm wrong. Here, the tub is ceramic and the lip made of granite.
The hotel provided us with a packet of eucalyptus bath salts to add to the water, but I'm not sure that's the traditional addition. At the Shu Uemura store, I found a line of wonderfully scented bath oils for this purpose, and ended up buying M. a bottle of the Japanese cedar oil, which was delightful and invigorating. At any rate, one can add aromatherapy oils or salts to the water while filling the tub, either to relax, detoxify, calm or invigorate the spirit.
Once cleansed of the day's debris, one slides into the deep tub up to the chin, and soaks to the heart and soul's content. This quickly became my favorite part of the day. The coffee that you see in these shots was purely our gaijin addition, and is most likely counterintuitive to the traditional ceremony. The Japanese have a separate tea ceremony that we did not have time to explore, though we did indulge in the Chinese version of the tea ceremony more than once during our adoption trip, and it was just as purifying and delicious as the bath ceremony was here. Someday I hope to try the Japanese version (and they do offer it at the Kabuki. We just didn't have time to indulge).
Another Japanese luxury, the beautifully-designed Japanese garden. We were rained out during these first couple of days, but took advantage of it later in the week (photos to come).
I think QQ enjoyed the rain as much as we did.
A light sculpture in the lobby.

Stay tuned...much, much more of our trip to San Francisco still to come!

4 comments:

Vivian M said...

Oh Maia, that bath sounds heavenly! I loved the deep tub and the way M could sit over the side while QQ took her bath! Thank you for taking the time to explain it, I had never heard of it before.
Looking forward to pictures of the gardens!

Carrie said...

Oh sounds Nice! QQ looks so cute!

operationtigerlily said...

I love seeing the city. Great photos.

Barbara said...

The bath! The cutie in the smooshy bed! The goodies! I wanna go to SF!