As shocking as it may sound to a Westerner’s ears, some Japanese kids continue bathing with their parents up until high school. It turns out, though, that doing so may have a positive impact on their grades.
When was the last time you took a bath as opposed to a shower? I remember a poll we took in my second grade class back in grade school, where each student was given a cup of water and one by one we were asked to come up and pour our cup into a bucket on the right if we took showers, or into a bucket on the left if we took baths. I watched the shower bucket fill up more and more before it was my turn, feeling somewhat embarrassed as I poured my cup into the still-shallow bucket for baths.
It seems many people in western countries “graduate” to showers rather early in life, saving baths only for special occasions or when you just feel like having a good, long soak. But in Japan, bathing is a big part of the country’s culture, as evidenced not only by the high-tech baths available in Japanese homes, which can automatically refill or reheat bath-water at the touch of a button, but also by the thousands of public baths and hot springs across the nation.
Bathing with strangers may seem odd enough if you’re not used to it, but would it be any weirder for you to bathe at home with your family members, particularly your parents? In Japan it’s not unusual at all for young children to bathe with their parents, but it seems that the age when kids outgrow bath time with Mom and Dad is a lot later than what was expected, with some kids up through junior high and even high school age having reported still bathing with parents.
Perhaps even more surprising, though, is that some of those adolescents are taking baths with their parent of the opposite gender—mothers bathing with sons, and fathers sharing tubs with daughters.
▼ You might remember the scene from My Neighbor Totoro, when Satsuki and Mei take a bath with their dad
Image: YouTube/ bits & bobs
The following graphs show the results of a survey in which women in their 20s and 30s were asked whether they still bathed with their fathers in junior high and in high school. More than 10 percent of women from both age groups answered that they still shared a tub in junior high. While the percentage dropped by nearly half for women in their 30s, just under 10 percent of women in their 20s said they still bathed with their dads even when they were in high school.
▼ Percentage of women currently in their 20s (top) and 30s (bottom) who bathed with their fathers through junior high
▼ Percentage of women who bathed with their fathers through high school
In the west, parents bathing with their child of the opposite sex is nearly unheard of, and would even have some proposing that it constitutes sexual abuse, but with different cultures come different social norms. While some Japanese have voiced their surprise at the fact that there are kids beyond grade school still bathing with their parents, as made clear by the numbers it is not as uncommon as one would think.
Plus, as one school has found, there may actually even be benefits to kids bathing with their parents. The undisclosed private boys’ school surveyed their second-year junior high students, finding that nearly half of them still bathed with their mothers, and noting that those students tended to have better grades. This is thought to be the effect of “skinship”, a Japanese term used to describe close physical contact. The Japanese aversion to physical contact and public displays of affection is well-known, but an increasing number of people are realizing its benefits.
What about you? Did you bathe with your parents as a child? At what age does it become inappropriate? Please share your thoughts with us below!