Hatsuburo: The First Bath of the Year

Written on January 2, 2011 by Wouter

The new year brings all sorts of celebration to the average Japanese family. It starts with eating osechi, the traditional food consumed at midnight to welcome the new year.

Then there are things like watching the first sunrise, going to the shrine to pray for luck on the new year (hatsumode), big sales at pretty much every shop in the country and much much more.

For the bath lovers there is also a first: the first bath of the year. There is even a word for it: hatsuburo. Hatsu means first and buro stands bath. Some people settle for a home-heated bath, but many will flock to their nearest public bath. Some baths open their doors all through the night during new year to accommodate the crowds, and others will give away free goods to the first visitors.

photo2-225x300-1I went to Haku Undani Onsen Yupika, not far from the house of my in-laws, although honesty bides me to say it was actually my second bath of 2011. The capacity is limited to the number of lockers in the datstuijo, so I had to wait in the lobby for about 40 minutes. While it’s not that different from a usual soak, the new year does bring kind of a festive mood to the bath.

If you’re headed for your hatsuburo, enjoy a fresh start of 2011, and in any event happy new year!