Designing a Japanese Bathroom

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One aspect of design is being able to build what you want, with the materials you can get. We recently designed and built a Japanese style bathroom in Sydney Australia, where the normal materials for such a project are not available. We had lived in Japan for 15 years and knew what the key functional requirements are.

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Last Updated: May 21 2019

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What is a Japanese Bathroom?

A standard Japanese bathroom is divided by a wall with a door that separates the dry changing and toweling area from the washing area.
Sekisui Bathroom Unit Sketch
The washing area has a place where you sit on a small stool, wash, soap up and rise, and after that  get into a hot bath and soak. It may also allow the use of a shower.  There is enough room in the wet room for a parent and child to bath together and that is quite normal to do.  The bath tubs have a water reheating facility that can heat up cold water to boiling. These is also a plastic foldaway cover over the tub to retain heat when not being used.

This is quite different from a western style bathroom that is based around the shower or  shallow bath tub, and the concept that you don't splash water around the bathroom. The water in a standard tub goes cold and can not be reheated.

The traditional look of wooden bath, stools and ladles is not part of the everyday Japanese bathroom, even if that is what accessory stores carry.

A practical Japanese Bathroom

Early sketches of bathroom layout
Early sketches of bathroom layout.

The approach taken was to effectively put a spa bath into the shower unit. Custom shower screens effectively allow you to divide the bathroom into wet and dry areas.

It is possibly to get an actual Acrylic or GRP Japanese style bathtub in Australia, but the solution to reheating the water is not trivial. The real solution to the bath tub design issue came with the discovery of a suitable spa bath tub.

Spa Bath

An Australian manufacturer of spa baths, stylus Bathroom & Kitchen Solutions Pty Ltd , had a Japanese inspired spa called the Fuji Spa Bath. It was purchased through Hardware & General Supplies Limited, Brookvale.

This has the depth required and the facility to reheat the water. It effectively has a seat in one half, so that it does not need as much water to fill and you sit in it quite upright.

The depth of the spa, and level of the connecting sew pipes meant that the bath could not be sunk into the bathroom floor as you would expect to do if you were building the bathroom from scratch.

The steps into the tub serve as seats and remove the need for additional  small stools, but the steps are wide enough to fit standard stools too .

The steps, hob (that little wall the show door sits on) and spa support are made of cut concrete blocks and covered with a non slip tile.
A custom made shower screen and doors by EZY~Glide Show Screens Pty Ltd Arncliffe, separate the washing are from the smaller dry area. Ended up using a split door for clearance reasons.

Bathroom Accessories

A GROHE removable shower head with a  long hose and adjustable height allows a western style shower, as well as convenient rinsing during a Japanese style bath.
The dry area has a toilet, small sink with storage and a mirror and a towel hanger.
These items were purchased from Harvey Norman Hardware Balgowlah.
The Tiles and, under floor heating in the dry area were obtained from Tilecraft Northern Beaches, Mona Vale.

Completed Bathroom

Selecting a Builder

It is one thing to design this, but it was another to get someone to actually build what we wanted. To that end we ended up selecting Unique Bathrooms (Sydney), who completed the job in what seemed like no time at all.


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