Have you ever watched an anime and wondered why the bathwater tends to be green? I certainly have. So I did some research and came across three common answers for the green bathing water in Japanese anime.
The most common explanation for the green bathwater in anime is that the characters add green colored bath salts. In Japan, it is indeed very popular to use bath powder because of its soothing and relaxing effects. However, anime creators also do it out of cultural and technical reasons.
Even though the usage of bath salts is a proper explanation for the green bathwater in anime, it is just a part of the real answer. Anime creators pay a lot of attention to the colors they use and carefully select them to make you feel in a certain way. Besides, they also have to deal with and overcome technical restrictions. I will explain to you in detail how the green water helps them with both.
Detailed Answer Why The Bath Water is Green in Japanese Anime
You don’t have to watch a lot of anime to come across a bathing scene with green water. Very rarely you might be able to witness an anime character using some kind of liquid or bath salt to change the color of their bath. However, far more often you will just see them soak in their green bathwater.
Anime Characters Add Green Colored Bath Salts to The Bath Water
In Japan, bathing isn’t about cleansing. You shower and clean your body before entering the bathtub and the same goes for washing your hair. The purpose of taking a bath is relaxing and soaking to refresh your mind and your body.
That’s why in Japan the usage of bath salts is very popular and common. Bathing powder or bathwater additive is called Nyuuyokuzai in Japanese. You will find it everywhere in Japan and in every color-scent combination you could imagine.
One of the most popular and famous brands is “Bathclin” or “Basukurin” if you want to say it in Japanese. Their green colored bath salt “Mori no Kaori” (Fragrance of the forest) has been around since 1930.
When I asked my Japanese friends why they think the bathwater in anime is green, the common answer I got was something along the lines of: “I have never really thought about that. Isn’t it just because they use Basukurin?”.
This is telling us two things.
Using bath salts like Bathclin is indeed very popular in Japan. So it is not surprising that Japanese anime portray the same kind of bathing culture. Second, it is so common to do in Japan that it doesn’t have to be shown or explained to Japanese people. Hence, you rarely see the character adding the bath powder.
However, after doing a little bit more research about the green bathwater, I came across another cultural reason.
Green Feels Less Chilly And is The Color Associated With Bathing in Japan
Japanese usually associate clear blue water with cold or colder water and it is the color for the ocean. Anime characters plunge into the blue sea to escape the summer heat, have fun, and to cool down.
That’s the total opposite of what Japanese people do in and associate with soaking in a bathtub. Since, as I mentioned earlier, taking a bath is all about relaxing and revitalizing.
If anime creators would use the same or a similar blue color to portray the chilling ocean and the warming bathtub it would lead to contrasting feelings. So to convey the warmth, they tend to choose another color for the hot bathwater.
But why green you might ask. Well, one reason is certainly that Bathclin’s green bath powder is so popular here in Japan. Another reason could be that blue feels colder than green, since blue is a cold color while green is a neutral color.
However, I have also read that green has always been the color associated with bathing in Japan.
There’s an artwork called “Bathing Women No. 1” from the nihonga painter Yuki Ogura. This painting shows two women taking a bath in what I think is a public bathhouse. It could also be at home, though. In this painting, the color of the water is green.
But this nihonga is actually from 1938, so it only proves that the Japanese have been associating the color green with bathing since around that time. Bathclin’s bath powder has been around since 1930, so maybe “Mori no Kaori” started this after all.
Transparent Water is Harder to Animate and The Green Color Functions as an Unnoticeable Censor Bar
This is the last reason you will most commonly hear when you ask about the green water in anime. So let’s break this down.
All older anime I know have green or other colored bathwater and from my animation and graphic design experience, I know that transparency is difficult. It doesn’t only take a lot of time to render accurately, but also a lot of data.
So I am pretty sure that anime creators prefer green, pink, yellow or other-colored water over transparent water to save time and money. Especially when it is a low(er)-budget anime production.
I also was looking for more information on the unnoticeable censor bar, but I couldn’t find anything official about it. However, it makes a lot of sense to me, because it is the easiest and most subtle way to censor a bathing scene.
Should I ever get a student who works for an anime production company, I will ask him or her and update this post!
Nowadays you can see more and more anime with transparent or semi-transparent bathwater. Probably because animation and rendering are becoming easier and easier every day thanks to the evolving technology. And probably also because revealing bathing scenes are more acceptable now than in the past.
And yet some anime creators still choose to go with colored water out of cultural and traditional reasons. I have even seen some Japanese complain that blue or transparent bath water looks unnatural.
Common Misbeliefs Why The Bath Water is Green in Japanese Anime
There are also a few myths or misbeliefs about why the bathwater is green in Japanese anime I would like to touch on here.
While doing my research I saw quite a few people arguing that the water is green because bathwater in Japan is green in general or because the bathtubs are deeper and therefore the water appears green.
I have been living in Japan since 2015 and I can promise you that I have never seen green bath water coming out of mine, my friend’s, or my host family’s tab. And even though it is true that bathtubs can be deeper than in western countries that fact doesn’t explain the green bathwater.
As this Nasa Science article explains, deep water appears navy blue while the turquoise or emerald green shades come from a high concentration of phytoplankton. I am not a science expert, but I would assume that the same goes for water in bathtubs. In a shallow bathtub, the water appears light blue. In a deep bathtub, it appears navy blue.
When you go to an onsen hot spring you actually might see colored water. The water changes its color or transparency because of the oxidation of minerals. Red or brownish color is due to the oxidation of iron. And green water is thought to be caused by algae and microbes in combination with high sulfur content.
Sometimes, when you see a picture of a green hot spring, it can also just be the reflection of the surrounding greenery, though. In my “Visiting a Japanese Onsen in Japan: Crazy or Enjoyable?” post you can see such a pic. The water appears green, but once you get into the onsen the water is perfectly clear.
Japanese Bath Salts You Can Use to Get Green Anime-Like Bath Water
So in Japan, the green bath powder with the longest history is Bathlin’s Mori no Kaori. I saw that you can also buy it on Amazon for about $23.99. The English name of the original version is Fragrance of Forest by Bathclin but there is also a newer one with an updated fragrance.
Another popular one is Babu’s Mori no Kaori. On Amazon, you can find the product as Bab Woody Fragrance for about $28.43. I gave this as a present to some of my German friends and all of them said that it looks exactly like the green bathwater in anime.
So if you want to feel like your favorite anime character, I highly recommend you try one of these green Japanese bath salts.