In what may seem like a curious tradition, the Japanese practice of bathing with yuzu on Winter Solstice – which falls on Saturday December 22 this year – is said to help promote beauty, health and general well-being. Yuzu, a lemon-like native Japanese citrus with a distinctive refreshing aroma, has been lauded for centuries for its health-providing properties of vitamin C, A, calcium and citric acid.
Each Winter Solstice, many baths, sento and onsen around Japan will have these bright-yellow fruit bobbing around like auspicious rubber duckies. Known as ‘yuzuyu’, these zesty baths are believed to fortify against winter cold and flu, while the nomilin enzymes from the oil of the peel is thought to help soften the skin and improve digestion.
That’s not all: many Japanese also believe that the bright aroma can aid in calming and revitalising the mind. The fact that yuzu is a hardy tree has a role to play in this too, as many hope that this tough survival quality can be passed into the bath as well.
So this December 22, go take a citrusy bath at a sento near you. Here are some of the participating local baths:
Keio Takaosan Onsen Gokurakuyu
Kosugi-yu (yuzu bath on Friday Dec 21 instead)
Bunkayokusen (yuzu bath on Sunday Dec 23 instead)
Do note that many bathhouses in Tokyo (or Japan for that matter) do no accept patrons with tattoos that are too large to cover up. For that, check our list of the best tattoo-friendly sento in the city. By Jessica Thompson