NEW YORK — The tradition of Japanese bathing is slowly creeping into the U.S. market, most notably with Japanese bath brand Ofuro.

Ofuro, which means bath, last year achieved modest success in nationwide boutiques with traditional bath powders based on Japanese herbal and botanical formulations. Japanese Bath Tradition, for example, became a highly sought-after product with its international appeal, from its delicate paper packaging to herbal formulations.

Now the brand, which is being distributed by Torrance, Calif.-based Kuraya Corp., is aiming to expand its estimated $250,000 in sales to department stores. And, the company is bent on influencing Americans, who generally prefer showers, to turn to the joy of bathing.

“Ryoco Fujii [the company’s founder], had this vision to bring the culture of taking daily baths to the American people,” said Marlisa Okamoto Butler, Ofuro’s U.S. director of marketing.

To that end, Ofuro is launching two new liquid treatments, a delivery system that’s more popular with Americans than powders. There’s Deep Sea Bath, which contains water from the Sea of Japan and kelp extract, and Mild Herb Bath, which contains essential oils of lavender, chamomile and rice germ oil for sensitive skin. Each retails for $14.

Next year the company plans to implement line extensions, such as candles. Its five-year goal is to reach $5 million in sales.

Ofuro is sold in several small beauty boutiques around the country, including Second Street Beauty in Long Beach, Calif. and Spa du Soleil in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Ofuro is part of Goshu Yakuhin, a 55-year-old publicly-held Toyama, Japan-based company with annual sales of $55 million. Goshu makes health foods, nutritional supplements, cosmetics and bath products, which are sold in drugstores, supermarkets and convenience stores. The company’s prestige business is restricted to its bath products, such as bath gift sets, bath powders and bath gels.

Most of Goshu’s business is generated in Japan, where baths are a part of the country’s culture. Goshu’s products are not sold in Europe, but the company is in private label contract negotiations with manufacturers there, according to Butler.

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