japanese softwoods

For a description of the essences we use to build ofuros, please read the description below. (or return to the category: our woods and scroll down)
Note that we may also have the availability of Koya-maki wood or knotty hinoki but these are becoming rarer.
For a more compact, printer-friendly version, check our download area and select the document on top of the list (1)

Lastly, note that we only use japanese woods. we cannot make ofuros in teak or port orford cedar. Also, pine is not suitable to make ofuros because it bends easily with changes of humidity and it produces discharges of resin.

If you need samples, please contact me by email at specifying your preferred shipping address.

A section devoted to people we like and respect and would like to share their awesomeness

lovely books

A former client/ now (and forever) friend sent me her new book featuring 87 pages of photos + poetic comments of her last trip to Japan.
I always enjoy her way of seeing things: sophisticated and friendly at the same time.
But this time the present is double as her daughter (also architect) sent me her first book.

I did not have yet the time to read it and will post more info when I do but it looks like a very serious treaty about architecture. It is actually a perfect timing as I am travelling to Dubai this week and will have some time to enjoy the book. I am actually missing a mind nourishing reading and it really seems like Anke and Sarah read my mind.
And I am so proud that they are part of our community of Japanese ofuro lovers!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart ☆彡

Northern lights

Dear Iacopo,
I just wanted to send my greetings from Norway, and share with you a picture of my “little japanese corner” in autumn morning sun:) Thank you for an interesting letter about the wonderful place in Italy! I hope the world will again be open for travelling..
Kind regards,Helen

I received a kind message from Helen from Norway.
The photo is so beautiful I decided to share it with everybody (of course with Helen`s placet) It is so peaceful and poetic that I printed it out and posted on the wall behind the computer. I will look at it to relax and draw energy when in rough waters…!

I take this opportunity to share also 2 other photos from Helen. amazing shadows on the wall paneling (not hinoki but Scandinavian Aspen)
Happy coming of Autumn to all the readers!☆彡

a happy ofuro

Thanks to J. from studioshamshiri for the beautiful photo (© stephenkentjohnson)
The interior, lighting and atmosphere just makes me scream of joy!
sooo beautiful! I am sure also our ofuro (Knotless Hinoki wood AB grade
L1600mm x W800mm x H600mm / 540mm(deep) and duckboard are very happy ☆彡
follow the studioshamshiri instagram account for more breathtaking interior photos or contact them if you like to live in a beautiful space.

6540 Sunset Blvd Los Angeles CA 90028
tel. 323 601 1007 x 706

ofuro water filling test

Just a final question for now: once you finish manufacturing your tubs, do you run any kind of test to make sure they do not leak at all?

Actually, we never make tests filling up the tubs. And they never leak.

The reason is explained in this video:

The wood in the joints is compressed and once it absorbs water it will expand.

It is a kind of security seal. Once you start filling it for the first time, the corners planks will “melt” into one another.

I hope it is clear. Please let me know of any other questions.



Choose the right ofuro size

Hi Iacopo,
We don’t have a lot of room and I’m wondering what sort of size makes sense. It all comes down to comfort when sitting inside.
It is hard to tell from the photos how people sit in the tubs. If we are to sit with legs straight out then it would have to be quite long. But if it is one we sit upright in, then I would want to make sure that the inner seat is high enough that we aren’t squatting. Does that make sense? Where would I begin to figure this out?

Dear A.,
I think that size is a very subjective matter.
We would recommend building a simple mockup with some cardboard boxes, or maybe just with some furniture and a couple of walls, and simulate the size of the ofuro.

Consider that while you are in the water, the body loses its weight (especially in a deeper soaking tub where a larger percentage of the body receives the hydro-static lift)

therefore I would not be too concerned about the sitting position with the legs being straight or bent.

I think what is more important is if the tub is going to be used by one person or there are chances of 2 or more people taking a bath together.

About the internal bench: we usually recommend a simple bath without a bench. It is easier to maintain and to clean and you have more flexibility of use (use in 1 person or 2 etc.)

When you are sitting on an internal bench, the full immersion bath becomes a half body bath (unless you increase the depth of the ofuro). But a deeper tub uses more water and it becomes more difficult to enter/egress so we would not recommend it.

If you like to alternate periods of full immersion bath with periods of half body bath the I think the internal bench is perfect because you can just switch sides.
If you have a preferential direction (facing a window etc.) we can install a removable bench. (but as the wood tends to float it may be cumbersome to insert/remove the bench while the tub is filled with water)



Send a “shochu mimai” or “zansho mimai”? That is the question!

I trust you are enjoying life and managing to protect yourself from the summer heat and from the … XXX-19 based “culture of fear” dominating the news. 
If the answer is not a 100% convinced “YES!”, I would recommend either to take a relaxing bath, or to read the (fully XXX-19 free…) news below.!

Chapter 1): do`s and don`ts about summer greetings in Japan

Chapter 2): let`s help a friend building a japanese stone garden (+ open question)

Chapter 3): advice about re-heating systems for ofuros 

Chapter 1)

As you may know, Japanese have a tradition of exchanging greeting cards and presents twice a year: in summer and winter.
Especially in a business environment, suppliers would send to their clients chocolates or a box of refreshing fruit jelly – depending on the season.
Other staples for the “o-chugen” (summer) and “o-seibo” (winter) are cookies, cold cuts, packs of beer, stocks of sunflower oil, instant coffee etc. 
Further details belong to a separate topic, so I will stop here.

In any case, when you write a summer greeting card do not think of “summer” as a synonym for “relaxing vacation” or “tropical beach” or the like.
Summer is hot and fatiguing so you should “share the pain” with your party.
Something like “We would like to extend our sympathies during this hot season. We pray for your health and hope you will take it easy when the heat is most severe.”

There is another practical rule to keep in mind:
the content of the greeting almost stays the same through summer, but if you send greetings in the first half of summer (july 6th – august 5th) they should be called sho-chu mimai (I am concerned about you in during the middle of the hot season).
If you send a card in the second half of the summer (august 6th – september 5th) then you should be sending a zan-sho mimai (I am concerned about you in this final part of the hot season).

Traditional themes include fans, swimming koi-carps, watermelons and “furin” chimes. In the ecological, pre-airconditioning era, looking at water flowing (or just the thought of it !) or listening to the high pitched tinging sound coming from a “furin” (metal or glass small chime activated by the wind) were used to refresh the torrid Japanese summers.

Chapter 2)

Sensational news! 
Ricky and Serenella, body and soul of the Bio-Ryokan WABISABI are adding new features to the heavenly small hotel and cultural center in San Ginesio (Central Italy).

They have been inspiring my thoughts and influencing the course of Bartok design Japan since 2004 – when I helped them to import the first container of fixtures (one large ofuro, tatamis, shoji, futon, antiques and kimonos.
Ricky and Serenella have been following through their project with perseverance, poesy and refined taste. Wabisabi overcome a devastating earthquakes, epochal snowfalls and innumerable difficult moments, actually growing even stronger and more beautiful everyday.

And what are Ricky and Serenella doing this …XXX-19 period that is leaving even the heroes at home trembling in front of the blue screens?

Well, Ricky and Serenella are building a meditation deck!
Is`it wonderful? Is`t it mind-blowing? All our thumbs up to WABISABI!

It reminds me the story of the Medici family who were holding the competition for the design of the bronze doors of the Firenze baptistery (won by Ghiberti over Brunelleschi) – and not giving to much importance to the army of Sforza ready to lay a siege on the city.

And the Medici were right!
Luck helps the bold – and sometimes also the bald 😉 –
History is very clear about it.

Anyway, lets go back to the WABISABI brand-new feature: in front of the meditation deck, now they want to create a “kare-san-sui” rock garden !!!!!!!

I am sure you will remember the iconic images of the zen gardens of the Silver pavilion or of the Ryoan-ji Temple in Kyoto.
As the name suggests, a kare-san-sui consists of an abstract “dry” landscape to symbolize the presence of mountains surrounded by flowing waters. 

Now, here is the open question:
Does anybody among the readers have experience with the making of a kare-san-sui?
Technical specifications such as type of stones, layering of the substrate under the garden, diameter of the gravel, types and sizes of rakes to be used etc.
Can you advise ???

Please share your experience and wisdom directly with Ricky and Serenella by contacting them at the address below.

Zen and Meditative Arts
Via Papa Giovanni XXIII, 23
San Ginesio 62026 (MC) Italy
Tel. 0039 335 396025

Alternatively, you can also share it as a comment here below for the benefit of the whole community.

And even if you do not have advice to spare about japanese zen gardens…
remember that you can always find inspiration and recharge your batteries at WABISABI: your little corner of Japan in Central Italy.

Chapter 3)

Lastly, a very short operational communication about mechanical equipment for ofuros:

I always receive inquiries about re-circulation systems for ofuros (about once a month).
Anyway, this summer, for some reason I am receiving about 4-5 requests per month!

Well, I am completely clueless about the why of this surge in interest about re-circulation systems but our stance remains the same. 

And if you were just about to write us and ask about re-circulation systems…
well, even before formulating your question you may find magically the reply here.

Thank in advance for your feedback about zen gardens and have a safe leftover of the summer heat (zan-sho-mimai-wo-moshiagemasu)! 

All the Best//


Why not re-heating?

Hello Bartok Design,
I check your website once or twice a year, every year, wondering why you’re still not offering the heating systems that go with your tubs.
Nothing from Kohler, Toto, Robert’s Hot Tubs in Berkeley, Zen Baths…..etc, either. I check them all every year.

There’s a huge range of soaking tubs on the US market sold by all the big and small bathtub suppliers. And though Japan and the US both use 110-volt power supplies, not one Japanese or US company has stepped forward to get a digital recirculating heating system into the US market. Nothing is waiting for approval, not even in California where demand would be strong.

Are you aware of any progress being made to make these systems available in the US?

Kind regards,

Dear G.,

Thank you for your interest in our Japanese bathtubs!

I appreciate your concern and advice but… we are carpenters… and we are good -only- at producing wooden bathtubs.

If we were reselling mechanical items (produced by specialized companies) our prices would be less competitive than the specialized suppliers plus we would not be able to provide the maintenance service and spare parts.

Consider also that the USA with its huge pool & SPA market can probably provide more advanced equipment at a more reasonable price than the Japanese makers (just my personal feeling)

This is why we prefer not to be involved in heating systems.
(Please note also that a good percentage of ofuros that are ordered by Bartok design`s customers have a larger capacity than a standard 5ft acryl shallow bathtub and the standard hot water heaters with recirculation system -so popular in Japan- would be under-spec.)

Anyway, it is not complicated to implement a system to match the requirements of each project.
Basically is the same as a spa or jacuzzi bath.

You will need a post-water-heater (gas-operated /or heat pump) + recirculation pump + cartridge filter + if you want ozone or UV sanitizer. (you cannot use chlorine – not even from a salt chlorinator)

I recommend contacting a company designing/installing systems for spas.
You can search for the names of equipment companies as keywords: (Jandy, Certikin, Waterways, Hayward, Pentair etc.)

If that company has questions about the compatibility/interface with the ofuro, you can put me in contact with them directly and I will try my best to address their technical questions.



colors of wood

What colors of wood do you offer? 
Can you share some pictures of the actual colors/shades.

Dear Y,
We use natural wood, no pigments, or dies. Also, only conifers can be used for bathtubs so the colors are quite similar. (they are all light color woods.)
I mean that there is no dark wood like walnut or reddish like mahogany.

Our three kinds of wood are:
・hinoki (whitish. color tone similar to birch)
・asnaro (yellowish. color tone similar to oak)
・sawara (orangeish. color tone similar to cherry)

Rather than comparing the photos of the 3 samples, I think it is easier to understand if you run a search on our site so you can see some completed tubs and pick the common traits.

If you want we can send some physical samples.
Where are you based? If we can use EMS shipping the cost will be 4000 JPY. If not (USA, Australia etc. – during the COVID emergency) we will have to use Fedex so cost will be 12,000 JPY

Please let me know how you intend to proceed.

the new spring of wabisabi

The cultural center and ryokan in S. Ginesio (central Italy) re-opened in the post-corona era on May 20th.

And to celebrate they cleaned and re-sanded their knotty hinoki 15-year old bartok design ofuro.

I leave the photos to describe the whiteness of the regenerated hinoki and the colors of the springtime filling it completely.

After the Corona virus I think that long haul flights and trips to faraway countries will be pursued less.
We will assist to the spread of the “micro-tourism” model as theorized by the President of the hotel chain “Hoshino Resort”

If you are in Europe, what other excuse are you waiting to visit the Wabi Sabi Ryokan? For questions/ reservations, contact Ricky and Serenella as per the details below:

Tel: 335-396025
facebook page:

I think the goddess of spring is a long stay guest here at the Wabisabi!

hinokitiol Vs. COVID-19

hinokitiol is a natural extract of asnaro-hiba wood with strong antimicrobial performance. It has been proved effective in treating penicillin-resistant streptococci and is used as a component for disinfectants, cosmetics, scalp and acne treatments etc.

It can be diluted in water and vaporized in the air: it lasts much longer than other volatile substances like alcohol.
It has been used as a local and ambient disinfectant and insect repellent.

Can It be helpful in inhibiting or treating the COVID-19?

I do not know.

But I can supply it !
(because it is a by-product of my manufacture of Japanese cedar wood products, mainly Japanese ofuro bathtubs).

I offer to send samples of hinokitiol to research institutes in case they are interested in testing it against the COVID-19 virus.

Please contact me and let me know the address and contact person information for the shipping. I will send 1g via airmail.
Product and shipping cost is on me.

For more information check this page:

  As of march, 17 2020 I already shipped a sample to:

1) Dr. Raymond Goodrich
Colorado State University’s Infectious Disease Research Center - USA

2) Dr. Maurizio Cecconi
Humanitas University - Milano - Italy

3) Mr. Joseph Payne
Arcturus Therapeutics - Torrey Pines Mesa - La Jolla - USA

4) Dr. Brooke Fiala
Washington’s Institute for Protein Design, Seattle - USA

5) Dr. Chen Katz  
Migal Galilee Research Institute, Qiryat Shemona - Israel

I do not have personal contacts within the 9 large companies who have been largely publicized on the media (nor I have big sympathy for large corporations) .
Anyway if you know some researcher who is worthy, please let me know!)

・ Inovio (USA)
・ Cure- Vac (Germany)
・ Gilead Sciences Inc.  (USA)
・ GlaxoSmithKline   (USA)
・ Johnson & Johnson   (USA)
・ Moderna Inc.   (USA)
・ Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. (USA)
・ Sanofi (USA)
・ Vir Biotechnology Inc. (USA)

Anybody else you think could use the natural hinokitiol to help defeat the virus?

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