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Lapuan Kankurit HIETSU design SAMU-JUSSI KOSKI photocredit BRYAN SARAGOSA
Lapuan Kankurit MERIHAKA design SAMU-JUSSI KOSKI photocredit BRYAN SARAGOSA


The ancient alchemists believed that by marrying together mythology, technology and philosophy, they would be able to perfect the human body and soul. Listening to Nene Tsuboi and Tuomas Toivonen, the co-owners of KULTTUURISAUNA, talk about the bathing experience, it’s clear that the two practices are not altogether dissimilar. The way they describe the transformative powers of heat and water in reverent tones, easily evokes the magical imagery of a great master labouring away to purify lead into gold.

A public sauna is like a shared contract or a promise you make with the other guests. You live in a city, you’re stressed from your work, you have all these things going on in your life – and then you come to this shared space, and you must respect the space and time of others as well. It’s a beautiful moment, when strangers share a harmonic moment through bathing, Nene says.

The purpose of bathing is to introduce a transformation through heat. At the end of the cycle of heat and cooling you have come through all kinds of changes, both physically and mentally. You’ve reached a new mental state, apart from the everyday, apart from business, apart from normal social hierarchies, Tuomas continues.

Creating that moment is no simple feat, as Tuomas and Nene can only offer the setting and the tools – it’s up to the bather to complete the ritual. There are rules both written and perceived, things you only learn by following others. – It’s both primitive and advanced. Sauna has a holy aspect to it, there are rules to it beyond the hygienic ones. It’s almost like an altar with a congregation that gathers, and there’s the gift of water you share as löyly, Tuomas describes.

One central tool in the ritual process of Kulttuurisauna, according to Nene and Tuomas, is linen. – We have hundreds of linen sauna covers here. Mangling is a significant part of our daily work, Tuomas laughs. – When you receive your sauna cover, locker key and a mug, you’ve taken your first step into the ritual.

Nene agrees. – The traditional sauna and linen go together perfectly. They have a shared history and theirproperties work well together. We couldn’t imagine using any other kind of material.

So, you’ve participated in the ritual of sauna. You’ve sat on the linen sauna cover, you’ve worked your body through the heat and your mind through the goings-on of your life. You’ve emerged from both the physical location and, perhaps, from something a bit more intangible. How does modern day alchemy present itself? Answers to that question are probably as numerous as sauna goers. Nene recalls the transformative forces of sauna with one customer interaction.

A guest tried to unlock her phone using the facial recognition feature after visiting us, without success, and exclaimed, “I must be so relaxed!” That’s the best kind of feedback for us. It’s both the challenge and the reward of our work, to offer this space of shared relaxation. When it all comes together, it’s magical.


Text Jenna Suomela Photo Bryan Saragosa

KAAPELITEHDAS long bathrobe | Lapuan Kankurit

HIETSU towel | Lapuan Kankurit

MERIHAKA linen shirt | Lapuan Kankurit


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