A few of Japan’s most popular pastimes aren’t exactly what some other societies would consider socially acceptable, or even comprehensible, as hobbies. It’s perfectly acceptable to say your hobby is “drinking” or “taking baths,” and while those are both common activities the world over, in other countries most people stop putting their enthusiasm for the first front and center after graduating from college, and the second is seen as more of a necessity than an entertainment option.
Japan’s love for alcohol and bathing, though, is immense, as evidenced by the thousands of bars, pubs, and hot spring resorts that cover the country. Now, some are claiming there are health benefits to combining the two by mixing a little booze into your bath.
Though beer is the most commonly consumed type of alcohol in Japan, it apparently makes a better beverage than bath mixer. Instead, those who have tried soaking in a combination of hot water and alcohol recommend using sake, shochu, or wine.
Let’s start with the most indigenously Japanese of the group, sake. Once you’ve drawn a bath, pour in three sake cups’ worth of rice wine and give the water a stir.
Researchers have observed sake baths alleviating hypertension in human test participants. Other touted benefits include improved blood circulation and smoother skin, with rumors saying a twice-weekly sake bath is what’s kept actress and former Miss Japan Norika Fujiwara looking youthful into her 40s.
Many of a sake bath’s benefits for the skin can also be obtained by using shochu, the distilled alcohol that can be made from one of a number of ingredients including sweet potatoes, brown sugar and buckwheat. But while any type of shochu should have the same effects when bathed in, shochu made from rice or barley is the most highly recommended. Shochu tends to be over 50 proof, meaning that it often has a strongly alcoholic smell, but rice and barley varieties tend to at least have milder aromas than the others.
Two cups of shochu should be enough to prepare the bath, and while the mixture can produce a tingling sensation on the skin, it still does a fine job of warming the body from the core.
If you’re looking to boost the beautifying effects on the skin, you can also add somecucumber to the bath. Take on cucumber, chop it into chunks, stick them in a mesh bag, and toss it into the bath. The added cucumber extract should leave your skin feeling tighter, as well as help clear up pimples and heat rashes.
Finally, if you prefer your alcohol occidental, you can mix in half a bottle of wine, which seems like a much better thing to do with leftover vino than just dumping it down the drain.
▼ Quick! Get naked and jump in the sink!
A wine bath is said to improve blood circulation, thanks to the flavonoids it contains. The tannins found in wine are also held to help tighten the skin.
Some even suggest doubling the volume and adding not a half-bottle, but an entire one to the tub. Again, this seems like a much less wasteful course of action than just throwing it all out, especially with the above points a wine bath has going for it. Still, if you really do have unopened bottles of wine sitting around your home, which you have no intention of drinking, we ask that you at least consider donating them to your favorite Japan-centric website, instead.