Posts tagged japanese soaking tub

Sustainability and the Japanese ofuro bathtub

Hinoki forest of Japan
The great hinoki forests of Japan’s Kiso Valley

In a world where it is as easy as a click of a button to start the process of a bathroom renovation, it’s equally easy to overlook where the products you’re using were sourced from and where the products you will dispose of actually end up.

It’s important to us that you know your Bartok design, wooden Japanese bathtub comes from sustainable resources and is ultimately a biodegradable item at the end of its lifecycle.

Japan is only a small country, roughly the size of the state of California. With its huge population of 120 million people, would it surprise you to learn that Japan is almost 70% covered in trees?

With such massive forests and few other natural resources, it is no surprise that trees and the wood they provide have an important place in history. Wood is the main building material used in the construction of houses, buildings and religious buildings such as temples.

Historically the five trees of Kiso were most prized. Hinoki, the king of trees, was reserved for use by nobility. Whole mountains were claimed as the property of feudal leaders and of temples in order that the wood needed for new construction and repairs would always be available.  

Starting in 1600s Japan began to view theses natural resources as worth caring for and conserving, mainly at the behest of a conservation-minded feudal lord. Huge swathes of forest were designated as national parks and native species came under the protection of the lord (with severe penalties for illegal felling or even gathering wood from the forests).

We note that this is way ahead of other civilisations!

Wood remains an important material in Japan and is also viewed globally as being a sustainable material. 

Of course, there is an economic motivation behind this as well as a conservation perspective. In any country, forests provide a source of income for rural areas. Our operation at Bartok design is made up of several smaller companies each taking a role in bringing your bath to you. Your purchase enables us to continue supporting our local artisans and craftsmen.

The hinoki (and other native wood) we use in the construction of our Japanese soaking tubs is generally from ancient forests. The trees are between 250 to 300 years old. Understandably we need to be careful not to overuse these ancient woods so we trust our lumberyard partners to abide by the regulations that govern the use of this wood. In most cases, as part of a healthy forest management program trees of this age either fall naturally or are part of the cull to ensure the maximum health of the surrounding trees and healthy undergrowth, which contributes to overall biodiversity in the forest.

Trees prevent soil erosion and landslides. Trees help maintain a clean supply of water, sequester carbon and produce oxygen. It’s been said that an initiative to plant just 10 million trees on earth would offset global warming in a major way.

We recognise the role wood manufacturers that play. Governing bodies accept the responsibility they have in offsetting climate change and global warming but at the same time, without a market for the wood that is grown, it’s hard to convince the private sector to take part.

When you buy a genuine Japanese wooden ofuro you can rest assured that the wood has been sustainably managed over its growing period, right through to how it was harvested and processed.

You are adding a thing of beauty to your home and are adding one less chemically derived product to the world. Bartok design ofuro are not varnished or lacquered so we do not use any unnecessary chemicals in the manufacturing process. Your ofuro will continue to breathe in your home, absorbing moisture and toxins from the air. Read more about our wood here.

Properly cared for your bath will last ten, twenty or even thirty years. When you’re finished with it you can safely recycle it into firewood or feed the pieces into a wood chipper to create mulch for your garden. The whole bath could become a planter for herbs in your garden. It’s a full circle environmentally safe product.

If sustainability is important to you then get in touch today to start designing your wooden ofuro soaking tub.

Nestled in the Swiss Alps

With the email subject line from our client “At last, the bathtub is in place” we could appreciate the hard work and effort that goes into redesigning a bathroom. Importing an ofuro from Japan takes no small effort and a huge amount of trust that we are going to get it right.

But get it right we did. Look at this stunning bathroom with its view on a miniaturized version of the Swiss Alps (or so we like to think – since the bathtub is in its new home in Switzerland). Hats off to the designers of the bathroom who have managed to create a calm and relaxing space that I am sure the owners will love for years to come.

Can you imagine slipping into the deliciously hot water after a day on the slopes?

With many thanks to F.H from Switzerland!

The Cat’s Pajamas

Our customer James sent us a fun video of his cat contemplating diving in for a soak in the ofuro. Thanks for the giggle James! Ofuro fun for the whole family. You can see it over on our Facebook page. It’s a beautiful bath, so tranquil.

Send us your pics! We love them!! japan(at) is our email address.

Photo credit: Photos generously provided by James Reinke

Hybrid Japanese Soaking Tubs

You love Japanese traditional wooden bathtubs but you wish they did not have exposed metal parts? You want crack-proof construction? Embedded overflow? Sexy, organic shapes? Read on!

Kintai bridge

I have a mission as a “bridge” to connect master Japanese craftsmen with Japan-lovers worldwide. As a designer, I like to apply the Japanese proverb which states that it is not by chance that men have one mouth and two ears. I like to listen to the requests of my clients and customize, adapt the shapes and details of my ofuros to match the space and the functionality that is needed, case by case.

Thanks to your inquiries about details such as top rim overflow cuts, removable seats, reversible covers, slanted walls, sloped bottom plank and more, I present … the “kakehashi tub”.

New Technology
All of the requested details have been incorporated into this brand-new product design, which I’m calling the “kakehashi tub”.

This amazing modern bathtub can be made in any convex curve and even concave shapes! The curved walls can be straight or even slanted in and out, free as a freehand sketch.

Our prototype Kakehashi ofuro is crescent-shaped. Perfect for 2 people, the moon-shaped ofuro is a tribute to the lunar side of the Japanese aesthetics.


  • pneumatic controlled popup drain
  • overflow system concealed inside the walls
  • no exposed metal parts and the look is very organic and natural
  • curved, concave, convex walls
  • any shape

Kakehashi means bridge. This idea connects and conjugates tradition with innovation; natural materials with cutting-edge technology; and Japanese sensibility with a world of sensuously curved shapes. If you are looking for something sleek, yet rooted in tradition you are ready for this new product.

japanese soaking tub kakehashi

Technological Breakthrough

The technological breakthrough of the Kakehashi ofuro is its laminated structure.
The walls of the tub are made from a fiberglass mold.
Upon this mold we construct an internal and an external layer of solid quarter-sawn Japanese timber (7-15mm thick).
Essentially the fiberglass core is sandwiched between the layers of wood.
The core gives stability to the bathtub.
The fiberglass also partially compensates for the expansion and contraction of the wood.
Structural support against the pressure of the water is provided by the core thus eliminating the need for metal bands on the outside of the bath.

You can also download here a summary of this page in pdf format.

Best of both worlds

The Kakehashi ofuro can be made from premium Kiso Valley hinoki and asnaro wood from Aomori Prefecture.

Enjoy the same pure aroma and soft touch of our traditionally-built wooden ofuro.
It is a wooden Japanese bathtub adapted to the modern environment.
Imagine a gorgeous pale hinoki bath in your modern bathroom.


Our company specialises in the design and production of traditional Japanese bathtubs made with hinoki wood and other Japanese conifers (asnaro, sawara, koyamaki). The traditional tub has some limitations in its design and functionality. It also doesn’t suit all tastes. It has been a few years now that I am caressing this new project. What strikes me about Japanese bathtubs is their minimalist design. They are very modern while being traditional.

For those who are attracted by the naturalism and the historical heritage behind the ofuro, then our present custom-order bathtubs produced by Bartok design are perfect for you. With the traditional techniques, it is possible to create circular, oval shapes or round cornered rectangles but with the limitation of having to cope with the metal bands which are needed to keep the barrel-type construction together under the pressure from the water.

We have always made and will continue to make these tubs.

Traditional crafts are in a difficult conjuncture and if we do not find alternative markets and products suitable for contemporary demand, tradtional handicrafts will be abandoned. That is why we are passionate about the Kakehashi ofuro. The Kakehashi project is also meant to bridge the knowledge of the traditional carpenters towards a stable and bright future.

By ordering any Bartok design ofuro you are helping preserve Japanese traditional crafts as they are passed to the next generation. Our craftsmen are excited about exploring these challenges with you.


As a ballpark value, hybrid bathtubs are about 2.5 times more expensive than the traditional type.
Consider that it is like building 2 separate shells of solid wood and assembling them together.
I think it is over-spec to use this technology for a normal tub, anyway, it has meaning if used to render complex/organic shapes with concave/convex faces or if used for design reasons when it is preferable to avoid metal banding (in a round/oval tub) or wooden dowels/copper plates (in a box type bathtub)
Also, hybrid technology may be chosen as an extra safety measure (compliance) against leaks, for instance when installed on a yacht.

To order

To start the order process please use the contact form below or contact us by email. What shape are you dreaming of?

Kakehashi Inquiry

Download a PDF of the Kakehashi Hybrid Ofuro

Bringing water to the desert

Airport shuttle bus all to myself
A limousine bus to myself!

This weekend I will be at The Hotel Show at the Dubai Trade Center bringing some much-needed ? onsen water to the desert! As I mentioned in my last post I am jumping all in to explore the b2b side of things. Orders have been increasing from hotels, bars, restaurants and spas so I thought I should come to answer all the questions about japanese ofuro in person.

You might know that our area of Japan was hit by a super-typhoon (tropical storm) a couple of weeks ago. So many flights were cancelled after the bridge to the airport was damaged as well as some flooding of the airport. It is happy for me that the shuttle bus was empty and I could enjoy a beautiful sunset as I take off from Osaka, Kansai Airport. The airport is only just resuming flights so I am very lucky.

See you on the other side! Come and say hi if you are at the Hotel Show too.

sunset over Osaka Bay
Sunset over Osaka Bay

art + nature

There is a step above the “handmade look”. Chisel and plane are the only tools used by the master “daiku”: yet he creates a perfectly square, smooth sculpture. No sealants or caulking are used but the masterful joints are invisible. There is no need for outspoken pride or rhetorics: this is the essence of perfect handwork.

hinoki bath-tubs are entirely hand planed ->


Who said that “handmade” has the downside of being rough?

Why shouldn’t “natural” be long-lasting?

Is it possible to have a “healthy” bathtub which is also beautiful and practical?

A hinoki tub is a masterfully built, smooth, natural and healthy, an easy-to-install and to maintain solution for your home: a WIN – WIN situation.

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