A nice article in one of the local (National - how rude!) English language rags about the importance of hot baths for the Japanese.
When my father came to Japan for the first time we took him to see Kenrokuen, a famous garden, in Kanazawa. After that and the 'Ninja Temple' we stayed in a Ryokan hotel for a night. Dad had about 3 minutes in the hotel's public bath before calling it a night.
Why are Japanese baths so hot? Find one writers opinion here.