Natsuko Yamashita works in brand and digital communication for Lush Japan. She speaks about bathing as a reward and why the bath helps her to unwind tension and reset ready for the next day.
Easing myself slowly into the warm water I exhale deeply, as though signalling to my exhausted body that it's time to let go of the tension that’s bound to it throughout the day. I watch the twirling steam as it dances on top of the ripples created as I shift this way and that, trying to find the perfect position to settle. Now is the time that I can let the world fade away. I feel neither happy or sad, only the sensation of something untangling inside me, satisfied in the knowledge that once it’s finished unfurling it will be replaced with the comfort of nothingness.
The bath is my sanctuary. It’s where I feel safe. The clock stops ticking and the world stops spinning. As a child, my dreams were always so busy with the unrelenting desire to become an Olympic gymnast and my schedule was even busier with the promise of making them a reality. With such pressure, both physical and mental, bathing became my favourite time of day. Bathing wasn’t an escape but a reward, because dreams don’t come true on their own, they take effort, hard work and commitment. Bathtime then, as it is now, is the blank space in my day. The chance to reset my mind from whatever negative thoughts seek to plague it.
I was 17 when I realised just how important bathing is. I’d been staying in Australia for three weeks in July with a host family during winter and although it was mild during the day, in the morning and at night the warmth sinks into the ground, making it the perfect time to bathe. However since drought hits the Oceania continent almost every summer, the price of water is extremely expensive.
I can still hear my host mother yelling at her daughter: “You’ve been almost 10 minutes, get out the shower!” While she allowed me to use the shower as long as I needed, I longed for a bath. I longed for that pause in the day where everything stops. I’d lie in bed every night replaying the day over in my mind on a loop and sleep would do its best to avoid me. It was then that I realised bathing is more than just cleaning my body, bathing is essential for resetting my mind from one sunrise to the next.
Three years later I went to study in the U.S for a year. This time I shared an apartment and the rent included the water bill so I was free to take as many baths as I wanted. But the tub was far too shallow and unlike the self-heating baths we have in Japan, the water would get cold very quickly. Every now and then I would try to indulge in a soak but the belly level water and the smell of the vinyl from the cheap supermarket shower curtain made the experience too depressing.
Now I’m 25 years old. I can deal with life a little easier. I’m happy in my own company and I no longer need to keep myself busy the way I did in my youth, but I still find myself striving hard everyday. Sometimes questions with no answers occupy my thoughts and waves of anxiety rush over me. Where am I going in life? Will I become the person I set out to be? That’s why I take baths. The warm gentle water, the long deep breaths, allowing my mind and body to just let go. I sink down low, so low that only half of my face peers out from the water. I wait for that wonderful feeling of nothing to arrive and when it comes I embrace it like an old friend. Bathing is that beautiful beat between today and tomorrow that I never want to miss. When I eventually pull myself up and out of the tub and the sound of the world drifts back to me, I know I can start tomorrow with a fresh me.