How It All Started

While living on an island in Puget Sound in 1975, an acquaintance named Dan introduced me and a group of his friends to the concept of a soaking tub. From his frequent trips to Japan, Dan had learned the ritual of the Japanese bath (ofuro) and had built a Japanese style bath house out in his orchard with a pristine view of the Olympic Mountains. Because it was the only suitable size tub available, he used a 5ft long x 2ft wide galvanized stock tank with a small Japanese wood burning water heater.

Dan also loved big parties; in fact, it seemed like he had a party going on at his place all the time. The seminal feature of his parties was the soaking tub – so simple – yet, so wonderful. Over the course of an evening, a dozen or more people would cycle through the tub, two at a time – then sit out on the deck with steaming bodies. The smell of the wet cedar deck, hot steamy water, and a moonlit night created something magical.

Dan taught us what the Japanese culture has known for hundreds of years: that soaking in hot water renews the body and cleanses the spirit. (Where have we been?) He explained that hot water soaking was practiced daily by virtually everyone in Japan and that it wasn’t considered a luxury but a part of everyday life.

This was a revelation to me, as it was to everyone else, and it dispelled the notion that a hot tub had to be an expensive luxury. This was a common household item like a bathtub, or a refrigerator – just part of a sensible lifestyle. All that was needed was a tub and a heater.

Well, soaking tubs became a craze in our small island community, with everyone going to the feed store and buying a stock tank. The only problem was how to heat it? So people started improvising, using electric water heater elements, or by making a fire under a stock tank. None of these methods worked very well.

Noticing that this soaking tub thing was catching on, Dan made a trip to Japan to search for the best hot bath heater where he discovered the Chofu wood-fired water heater, a remarkable piece of engineering and craftsmanship – made of stainless steel. It solved the heater problem and suddenly everyone had the ability to create a soaking tub.

Well, one thing led to another and by now I had become infected with a passion for soaking tubs and a burning desire to spread the gospel. In 1985 Dan introduced me to representatives of the Chofu Company to set up importation. Since then, thousands of people have luxuriated in bliss under the stars in soaking tubs heated by Chofu heaters.

Although the Chofu can be used to heat any kind of tub, it turns out that stock tanks are still the most popular because they’re inexpensive, practical, and readily available. It took awhile, but now they’ve become mainstream. The lowly stock tank has been elevated to the status of royalty.  

I never thought of myself as a business person, and still don’t, but I’m definitely an evangelist. Sitting in a soaking tub filled with hot steamy water on a clear starry night is just about the most wonderful thing a person can do. Or as I’ve come to realize, “If you have a soaking tub in your life, everything else will be OK.”

Frazer Mann
Founder of Island Hot Tub Company
Whidbey Island, Washington