FiKa Sauna: Where Japanese and Finnish Sauna Traditions Meet

On the southernmost tip of Kyushu island, Japan, lies the picturesque city of Kagoshima. Known for being home to Sakurajima, the most active volcano in Japan, students at Kagoshima University hope their city will soon be well-known for another reason; FiKa Sauna, a sauna with Harvia Legend 300 wood-burning heater. With its unique interior sloped walls, built using traditional methods and natural materials, this sauna is more than a match for the stunning location in which it is located. Built as part of a collaboration between Kagoshima University in Japan and Metropolia University of Applied Sciences in Finland, the sauna was aptly named FiKa Sauna (Finland-Kagoshima) as a nod to the profound connection between these two places. Read on to find out more about this stunning sauna that seamlessly unites Finnish sauna tradition with sustainable Japanese architecture.

Photo ©  Kagoshima University Environmental Architecture Lab & Metropolia University of Applied Sciences

A Japanese sauna inspired by Finnish tradition

To create an exceptional sauna experience, the students behind FiKa Sauna meticulously followed the design of traditional Finnish saunas. Though the exterior of the sauna may not reflect this heritage, the interior has all the hallmark elements of an authentic Finnish sauna.

Jorma Lehtinen, an architect and Senior Lecturer at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, Finland, joined forces with Atsushi Takano, Associate Professor of Architecture at Kagoshima University, Japan to instruct Takano’s students in the design and construction of a Finnish sauna.

They strategically positioned the sauna heater and benches and ensured proper ventilation for optimal heat circulation within the sauna.

Photo ©  Kagoshima University Environmental Architecture Lab & Metropolia University of Applied Sciences

Powered by a Harvia Legend 300 wood-burning heater

At the heart of the sauna is a Harvia Legend 300 wood-burning heater. The visually striking Harvia Legend was designed to hold an impressive 260kg of stones, offering even heat distribution throughout the sauna. With its exceptional heat retention capacity, this heater gives a hot, humid sauna experience for the ultimate healing with heat relaxation.

The sauna overlooks the spectacular Kirishima Mountain volcanic range, often draped in mist, creating the illusion of the mountains floating in the distance. The serene surroundings of the sauna mirror the serenity within as sauna bathers are soothed by heat and the gentle crackling of the natural fire, clearly visible behind the large glass door of the Harvia Legend 300 heater.

Photo ©  Kagoshima University Environmental Architecture Lab & Metropolia University of Applied Sciences

Sustainability at the heart of this breath-taking sauna

Whilst the interior of the sauna is entrenched in the Finnish tradition, the exterior was inspired by the breath-taking local surroundings, including the serene Kagoshima bay, majestic Sakuajima volcano and lush yakusugi tree forests.

The sauna was made sustainable in many ways, from the use of traditional construction techniques to sourcing building materials locally. The unique lattice log construction, the product of years of careful development by students and faculty members of Kagoshima University, utilises linen and straw to help insulate the structure. As many of the materials as possible used in the sauna were locally sourced from the Kagoshima region, known in part for excellent woodworking craftmanship.

This conscientious approach not only highlights the fusion of culture and craftsmanship but also promotes the wellness benefits inherent in sauna. Saunas have numerous benefits to both physical and mental health, including improved heart health, circulation, relaxation and stress relief. The sustainable design and thoughtfully chosen materials add another layer to the holistic experience, ensuring a sauna that nurtures both body and environment.

Photo ©  Kagoshima University Environmental Architecture Lab & Metropolia University of Applied Sciences

A long-standing dream combining Kagoshima University and Metropolia University of Applied Sciences

The unique timber FiKa Sauna project is the product of years of planning between Atsushi Takano from Kagoshima University and Jorma Lehtinen from Metropolia University of Applied Sciences.

Atsushi Takano told Harvia, “I've wanted to work together with Jorma to build a Finnish sauna in Kagoshima since 2016 when I was working on my PhD at Aalto University in Finland. Because of Covid and other challenges, we couldn't make this happen until recently. Jorma received a research travel grant in 2023 which helped kick-start this project”.

At the start of the four-month project, the students who designed and built the sauna were sauna-building novices. Under the watchful eyes of course leaders Lehtinen and Takano, they quickly grew in competence and skill to create this stunning sauna.

FiKa Sauna will be open to the public, offering everyone a chance to experience the sauna's healing benefits, such as improved heart health, relaxation and stress relief.

Photos © Kagoshima University Environmental Architecture Lab & Metropolia University of Applied Sciences

FiKa Sauna

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Harvia Legend

Harvia wood-burning heaters

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Healing with heat

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